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British IS 'suicide bomber did not receive £1m compensation from UK government'

The family of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee reportedly killed in an Islamic State suicide bomb attack in Iraq have denied he received £1 million compensation from the British government.

Jamal al-Harith from Manchester was identified by family members from a photograph issued by IS showing him at the wheel of a truck packed with explosives which he was said to have driven into a military base near Mosul.

The disclosure that the 50-year-old - previously known as Ronald Fiddler before converting to Islam - had received a substantial compensation payment from the UK government after ministers lobbied to secure his release from Guantanamo Bay in 2004 sparked a furious political blame game.

However, a statement to the BBC on behalf of the family said they believed the claimed figure of £1 million was wide of the mark and referred to a group settlement made to four ex-detainees - including al-Harith - and included their costs.

They blamed his treatment at Guantanamo Bay, where he was held by the Americans, for his subsequent involvement with IS.

The statement said: "The Jamal they knew up until 2001 when he was taken to Guantanamo Bay would not have become involved with a despicable organisation such as so-called IS.

"He was a peaceful and gentle person.

"Whatever he may or may not have done since then they believe from their own experience he was utterly changed by the physical and mental cruelty and the inhuman treatment he endured for two years at Guantanamo."

Al-Harith fell into the hands of the Americans after originally having been picked up by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

He was among a group of British detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in 2004 following lobbying by ministers from Tony Blair's Labour government.

In 2010 David Cameron's coalition government settled a civil case brought by al-Harith and other former detainees alleging ill treatment by MI6 while they were being held by the Americans.

In 2014, ten years after his release, al-Harith reportedly left the UK to join IS in Syria. His second wife, Shukee Begum, went to find him but was unable to persuade him to return home.

Mr Blair reacted angrily to criticism of his government's decision to secure the release of the detainees, saying that at the time they had been attacked for not doing more to help them.

"When his release was announced in very measured terms in 2004, pointing out the risks which remained with Guantanamo detainees, the Conservative MPs reacted by strongly criticising not the release but why it had taken so long," he said in a statement.

David Blunkett, who was home secretary at the time, said that the government had reacted "responsibly" in securing the detainees' release, saying they been "under surveillance and monitored by the security services" on their return to the UK.

Lord Blunkett added, however, that he was not aware of how long monitoring continued after the court case was settled, saying it was a "matter of speculation that can only be answered by the present Government".

Ken Clarke, meanwhile, who was justice secretary in 2010, said the government had been forced to settle the civil action for national security reasons.

"National security requirements made it impossible for MI6 to offer any evidence in court in response to the claims, so the government was unable to resist them in law," he said.

"We settled the claims and then introduced legislation, which I took through Parliament, which became known as the 'secret courts bill' which in future would enable a judge to hear evidence from the intelligence services in secret session, so that this could never happen again."

No 10 refused to comment, saying it did not discuss security matters.

A spokesman said there was no independent confirmation that al-Harith had actually been killed in Iraq.

"It is being reported as a matter of fact about this man but there is no independent confirmation of the identity of this man who is believed to be dead in Mosul," the spokesman said.

However Arthur Snell, a former head of the Prevent counter-radicalisation programme at the Foreign Office, said there had clearly been a failure to keep track of al-Harith.

"It's obvious that collectively, the authorities - and obviously I have some personal responsibility there - we failed to be aware of what Fiddler was up to," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

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