Cameron must stop British jihadists returning from Syria

Here's a solution: forbid any British subject from travelling to Syria unless registered with a charity

Crispin Black

IT SEEMS we are powerless to prevent the return to these shores of more than 250 British jihadists (the number goes up each week), who have been fighting and killing in Syria for some deeply unsavoury organisations like ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Among other horrors, ISIS is reported in the last few days to have stoned to death a young girl for having a twitter account, and to have perfected a new technique for beheading infidels - severing the head from the body by a left-to-right close range burst with a heavy calibre machine-gun. According to a number of press reports, our Security Service has already intercepted a serious plot by militants returning from the region, sometime last autumn. They were said to be planning a Nairobi-style gun attack on civilians in a crowded location, possibly in London. Carried away by his hollow success in Libya, David Cameron has from the word go acted as a recruiting sergeant for those who want to overthrow President Assad. Even after becoming the first British prime minister since Lord North to lose a vote on military action in the Commons, he has continued self-indulgently to try to keep Syria at the top of his agenda. Hardly surprising then that a large number of young British Muslims saw this as a green light to go and fight against Assad themselves. Cameron's hazy moral compass on religiously inspired terrorism is more than merely naive, it's a security risk. Recent revelations that in 1984 the SAS provided advice to the Indian Army on Operation Bluestar - the attack on armed Sikh militants holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar ordered by Mrs Gandhi - sent Cameron into a blue funk about the possible electoral implications for the Conservative Party among British Sikh voters. He quickly instructed William Hague to hold an inquiry. After much to-ing and fro-ing it would appear that the SAS did provide some sort of advice, but they didn't inhale. At a time when the safety of ordinary Britons is threatened by religious extremists, Cameron and Hague seemed to be ashamed that our esteemed SAS gave advice to an allied government on how to deal with religious fanatics who sought to demonstrate, through the use of armed force, that the laws of India did not apply within the precincts of the Golden Temple. Bestowing a retrospective kite mark on religious extremists is extraordinarily reckless. Stopping returning jihadis at the border would be comparatively simple - if the political class had the will. Pass a law forbidding any British subject from travelling to Syria - unless registered with a charity authorised by the Foreign Office. There are many fine charities - Muslim, Christian and secular - trying to make life more bearable for innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Who could not be moved by recent images like the little boy separated from his parents in the desert? The message should be - if you really care about Syria go and work for one of those. But anyone suspected of making an unauthorised trip to Syria would not be re-admitted to the United Kingdom. Put up posters to that effect at every airport and seaport, next to the blurb on how many fags you can buy outside the EU and how you can't take meat products to New Zealand. "If you travel to Syria illegally, you will not be allowed to return here." Preventing any more of these jihadists coming 'home' would be the simplest solution. Dealing with an attack by such men once it kicks off will be difficult. Terrorists on shooting sprees of this kind inflict damage quickly, relying on a shock effect to cow their intended victims. No doubt the SAS or SBS will arrive, but even they will be lucky to arrive in time. In Mumbai, on the evening of Wednesday 26 November 2008, in little more than an hour, just two terrorists, Ismail Khan and Ajmal Kasab, murdered 52 (including eight armed policemen), and wounded 109, as they rampaged through the city's Victoria Terminus railway station with AK47s and grenades. Incidentally, the Indians have a slightly more austere attitude to murdering innocent civilians than we do. Kasab, the only terrorist to survive the attacks, was hanged in November 2012. The President of India refused to commute the sentence. The butcher's bills have been quite severe. Mumbai: 153 killed and more than 600 wounded. Nairobi: 67 dead and 175 wounded. In both cases hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage were also caused to property. Imagine if something similar were to happen in London. The moral responsibility for terrorist attacks of this type always rests with the terrorists who carry them out and those who support them. But political leaders have a fundamental duty to protect their own citizens. David Cameron, secure behind the heavy security at Downing Street (apparently, you can't even get a small bicycle through the main gates), isn't even trying.

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is a former Welsh Guards lieutenant colonel and intelligence analyst for the British government's Joint Intelligence Committee. His book, 7-7: What Went Wrong, was one of the first to be published after the London bombings in July 2005.