The only way to deal with British Islamic State militants is to kill them on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, according to a high-ranking U.K. government minister.
International Development Minister Rory Stewart told the BBC Sunday that ISIS fighters recruited from the U.K. pose a “serious danger” to national security, and would most likely have to be killed before they attempt to return.
“They believe in an extremely hateful doctrine which involves killing themselves, killing others and trying to use violence and brutality to create an 8th Century, or 7th Century, state,” he said. “So I’m afraid we have to be serious about the fact these people are a serious danger to us, and unfortunately, the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”
Stewart’s remarks echoed similar statements made by US special envoy Brett McGurk, who said last week that the anti-ISIS coalition’s mission in Syria is to “make sure any foreign fighter who is here … will die here.”
The U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS has made significant progress in eradicating ISIS fighters from their Syrian strongholds in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Syrian Democratic Forces liberated Raqqa after a three-month assault on what was the capital of the the ISIS “caliphate” in Syria. SDF added to its gains over the weekend, capturing a key oil field in eastern Syria that ISIS had held since 2014. (RELATED: US-Backed Forces Drive ISIS From Syria’s Largest Oil Field)
As coalition forces and the Syrian regime continue to whittle away at ISIS-held territory, Western intelligence officials worry that surviving ISIS militants from Europe will slip back into their home countries to carry out attacks. Many of those fighters were recruited from the U.K. — about 850 British citizens have traveled to the Middle East to support or fight for ISIS, according to U.K. authorities.
Stewart’s insistence that most foreign ISIS fighters will have to be killed on the battlefield is consistent with the U.K.’s official position, a government spokesperson told CNBC.
“Anyone who does travel to Syria, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger — particularly if they are fighting for our enemies,” he said.
Stewart clarified his remarks somewhat Monday, saying that captured combatants should be treated “in accordance with the law.”
“Clearly combatants should be treated in accordance with law,” he wrote on Twitter. “My point was simply that ISIS is a death-cult which usually fights to the death.”
The head of Britain’s MI5 domestic intelligence service said last week that more than 130 U.K. citizens have been killed while fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the BBC.
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