Jihadi John 'on kill list drawn up by senior UK ministers'

MPs continue to question government on legality of targeting British jihadists in Syria


Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State extremist widely known as Jihadi John, is believed to be on a UK "kill list" drawn up by senior ministers on the National Security Council.

NSC members, chaired by David Cameron, approved the drone strike that killed two British jihadis last month. Legal questions have been raised after it emerged that one of the men – Reyaad Khan, a 21-year-old from Cardiff – had been specifically targeted in an RAF drone strike in Syria on 21 August.It has been claimed that the NSC drew up a "kill list" with the names of several British extremists, including Mohammed Emwazi, shortly after May's general election. Emwazi is believed to be the militant seen in several IS videos showing the beheadings of Western captives.According to The Guardian, unmanned RAF aerial drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been patrolling the skies over Syria for months seeking to target British jihadis on the list.Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said ministers would not hesitate to approve further strikes, but a group of cross-party MPs are putting pressure on senior ministers to justify the legality of their actions. The government had previously said that unarmed RAF drones were gathering intelligence on IS targets and Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out that parliament specifically rejected military action in Syria in September 2013. "There has to be a legal basis for what's going on. This is war without parliamentary approval," he said.Liberal Democrat sources told the Guardian that last month's RAF drone strike was unlikely to have been approved when former party leader Nick Clegg sat on the NSC under the coalition government.

One former Lib Dem coalition source told the newspaper: "The hawks have been let loose and are trying to test the boundaries of what is possible."

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Legal questions raised after RAF kills British jihadists in Syria

08 September

Prime Minister David Cameron is facing questions about the legality of an RAF airstrike in Syria that killed two British Islamic State jihadists.

Reyaad Khan, a 21-year-old from Cardiff, and Ruhul Amin, a 26-year-old from Aberdeen, were both killed in an RAF drone strike in Raqqa on 21 August.

Khan was specifically targeted after security services discovered that he planned to stage a terror attack in the UK. Amin also died in the attack.

The airstrike marked the first time that UK forces directed an attack against one of their own citizens when the country was not at war and is also the first British military action in Syria, says the Daily Telegraph.

MPs rejected UK military action in Syria in 2013, but Cameron claims the Raqqa attack did not require authorisation from Parliament because it was an act of "self-defence". He told the Commons yesterday that the attorney general had agreed there was a "clear legal basis" for the strike on Khan.

But acting Labour leader Harriet Harman is among the critics urging government to publish the legal advice so it can be subjected to independent scrutiny.

Article 51 of the United Nations charter guarantees "the inherent right of individual or collective self defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the UN".

But Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London, said the prime minister had provided "insufficient basis" for anyone to know whether the attack was legal.

"It appears that the UK is adopting a broader and more expansive vision of what the right of self-defence means – which connects to the approach taken by the US in its 'global war on terror'," he told The Guardian. "It appears to be a departure from established British practice in the use of force in self-defence."

Deborah Haynes, defence editor at The Times, added: "The killing sets a precedent that Britain is willing to destroy enemies anywhere in the world deemed to be ungoverned space, something this government and Labour before it had insisted the country did not do."

Other newspapers believe Cameron was justified in ordering the attack. "Alternatives, such as arresting the men, were not available in the lawless ungoverned space occupied by Isil," says the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon insisted the strike was a "perfectly legal act of self-defence to prevent an armed attack on the streets of Britain".

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