Home World News/International Battle-hardened and vengeful, 300 jihadists are back in Britain

Battle-hardened and vengeful, 300 jihadists are back in Britain

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More than 300 dangerous jihadists have returned to the UK after fighting with Daesh — far higher than previously thought, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

About 700 fighters considered “dangerous” by the intelligence services have travelled to Syria and Iraq since the start of a conflict that has seen huge swathes of the region overrun by jihadists. Of those, about 320 have now returned and are officially listed as “people of interest”. A further 700 people who are not considered to be a threat to national security have also visited the region. Previously the Government had estimated about 500 jihadists had fought with Daesh and that 250 had come back. The new estimate highlights the huge difficulty facing the security services and border agencies in trying to keep Britain safe.

The Sunday Telegraph has been told that about “two dozen” individuals who have come back have been involved in plots in the UK — so far thwarted. In recent months, the flow to Syria has “significantly slackened” with Islamist idealists, previously attracted to the region with a view to overthrowing the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, deterred by the brutality and violence of Daesh. But more worrying for the UK authorities is the significant number of “hard-core” extremists who have been attracted by the barbarity of the leaders.

A far higher proportion of Britons who currently go to Syria, according to the Home Office analysis, are now intent on committing terrorist offences, attracted by the propaganda recruitment videos fronted by “Jihadi John”. His unmasking as Mohammad Emwazi, a 26-year-old computer sciences graduate from the University of Westminster, highlights the difficulty facing the authorities in trying to keep track of UK-based jihadists. Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait but grew up in London, had been under surveillance by MI5 and on a no-fly watch list for about four years. But in the spring of 2013, he escaped the UK undetected after slipping out of the country in the back of a lorry with the help of associates involved in a criminal network. Another terror suspect Ebrahim Magag, who had been placed under even tighter surveillance under a terrorism prevention and investigation measure, is now thought by some in the security world to have escaped with him.

Magag, 28, who was born in Somalia, jumped out of a cab at Euston Station on Boxing Day 2012 and then vanished. Intelligence services are understood to be investigating the possibility that Magag, who had attended terror training camps in Somalia and is accused of raising funds for Al Qaida, might have been smuggled out of Britain either at the same time or using the same route as Emwazi.

The extent of Emwazi’s network is also now believed to be much bigger than previously thought, making it all the harder for the agencies to keep tabs on its various strands. Before joining Daesh, Emwazi had previously attempted to join Al Shabaab, the Al Qaida affiliated terrorist group operating in Somalia and East Africa, but had been turned back on landing in Tanzania following a tip-off from MI5 in May 2009.

The two other men travelling with Emwazi can now be identified as Ali Adorus, 33, a security guard, and a German Muslim convert named as Marcel Schrodl, who went by the name Omar or Umar. Schrodl’s current whereabouts is not known — potentially another headache for UK intelligence — but Adorus is presently languishing in a jail in Ethiopia. Adorus, a father-of-two whose wife still lives in Finsbury park in north London, but who like Emwazi grew up in west London, was sentenced to four and a half years after being found guilty by the Ethiopian courts of attempting to establish Islamic rule through acts of terrorism.

The Sunday Telegraph can disclose that two other Britons were jailed with Adorus — Mohammad Ahmad and Ahmad Elmi. The trio had first entered Ethiopia in 2011 and were arrested in 2013 at a time when Emwazi was leaving London to fight his own jihad. Emwazi is also connected to a terror cell operating out of west London that included the July 21 bombers who tried but failed to blow up the London Underground in 2005. Emwazi and Adorus are further linked by connections to Cage, founded by Moazzam Begg, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and which campaigns on behalf of Muslim prisoners and who are deemed “victims” of the war on terror.

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