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Minister says Britons fighting with Daesh are ‘legitimate targets’

A file photo of Daesh fighters (AFP)
LONDON: British nationals who left to fight for Daesh abroad should be “eliminated,” said newly appointed UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The senior Cabinet minister suggested in an interview with the Daily Mail that armed forces were deliberately targeting British militants in Syria or Iraq.

“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” he said. “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.”

Williamson said militants in Libya, Iraq and Syria were plotting attacks in the UK. It is believed that more than 800 UK citizens have gone to fight for Daesh, including teenagers, women and young families.

In response to Arab News, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry said that British nationals who left to fight with Daesh have made themselves “a legitimate target” and should be “brought to justice, in the UK or within the region”

Other ministers also share the same view. In October, International Development Minister Rory Stewart also said “Their deaths (British Daesh fighters), like that of executioner Jihadi John, will protect the UK.”

However, Associate Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, Dr. Imran Awan, told Arab News that this is not the solution and instead would bread more extremists.

“It’s all about rehabilitation,” Awan said, explaining how the UK should follow Denmark’s program of rehabilitation, which has been successful in the past.

Denmark, with the second-highest number of foreign fighters per capita, decided on a policy of not penalizing citizens who have returned from abroad after engaging in militant or extremist activity. The program offers counselling and assistance instead of jail time.

Like other criminals, Awan says that suspected militants should have the right to a fair trail and be prosecuted within the British legal system.

“Anyone who commits a crime must be arrested and imprisoned, but there are programs that the government could follow to deradicalize these individuals and insure that they are no longer a threat to society,” he said.

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