Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

PM vows to tackle terror threat

David Cameron has insisted he will do "whatever it takes" to protect the UK from terrorists as the Government faced further questions over how the extremist known as "Jihadi John" was able to travel to Syria.

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary Theresa May highlighted the measures introduced by the Government to impose tighter restrictions on terror suspects.

But Labour demanded an inquiry into whether their decision to abandon the control orders regime had made it easier for members of a west London terror group that reportedly counted Mohammed Emwazi in its number to travel to fight abroad.

Emwazi has been unmasked as "Jihadi John", the Islamic State (IS) terrorist believed to be responsible for the beheading of hostages taken by the group.

Mrs May, who was summoned to the Commons to respond to an urgent question on the issue, said she had been given no advice by counter-terror police or the UK's spies that using powers to relocate suspects under the defunct control orders regime would have stopped suspects travelling to Syria.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for either an independent or parliamentary investigation into whether the policy change had made it easier for would-be jihadists to travel to the Middle East.

Ms Cooper said Mrs May's decision to scrap control orders in 2012 and replace them with terror prevention and investigation measures (Tpims), which did not have relocation powers, could have made it easier for the west London group to operate.

The Labour frontbencher said that since control orders were replaced with Tpims, two terror suspects subject to the new measures escaped the security services while others being monitored also apparently left for Syria to become involved in "brutal violence".

She said that in 2011 three individuals in the west London terror network had been relocated under control orders, 10 other named individuals and other unnamed individuals had been identified as funding and equipping terrorism and facilitating travel out of Britain.

But Mrs May pointed out control orders were still available in 2011 and told her: "At no point has anybody from the police or security service said to me that if we had the power of relocation, we would be able to prevent people from travelling to Syria."

The Prime Minister insisted the Government had already introduced new powers to combat extremism but suggested more laws are likely to be needed in the future to cope with technological advances.

Speaking during an event in Colchester, Mr Cameron signalled his desire to take further steps to crack down on terrorists using online methods to communicate in secret.

He said: "My view is national security comes first. Whatever it takes, whatever is necessary to keep the British public safe, I will always be a Prime Minister who wants to push for those changes.

"Over time, yes of course, we are going to do more to make sure that as technology develops we can make sure we can keep people safe.

"I'm not satisfied that we can allow means of communication to develop, which in extremis, we are simply unable to intercept."

Meanwhile, further details emerged about the life Emwazi left behind to join IS.

The British graduate was bullied at school, his former headteacher has revealed.

Jo Shuter, the former headteacher of Quintin Kynaston, said she could not describe the "shock and the horror" she felt at the news that Jihadi John was a former pupil.

"Even now when I'm listening to the news and I hear his name I feel the skin on the back of my neck stand up because it is just so far from what I knew of him, and it is so shocking and so horrendous the things that he has done," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Ms Shuter said that far from the arrogant killer who features on IS videos, she remembered a "hard-working" boy bullied by his schoolmates.

She said: "He had adolescent issues, as some of the young people, particularly at that age - year nine, particularly the boys, is a time when the hormones start raging, and he had some issues with being bullied which we dealt with.

"By the time he got into the sixth form he, to all intents and purposes, was a hard-working aspirational young man who went on to the university that he wanted to go to."

Emwazi moved from Kuwait to London when he was six. His family settled in the Mozart Estate - one of the capital's most notorious estates which has been blighted by gangs and violence.

Concerns have been raised that pupils at Quintin Kynaston - a flagship academy in Swiss Cottage, London, once visited by then prime minister Tony Blair - were radicalised as teenagers.

Choukri Ellekhlifi was killed in Syria in 2013 after joining up with an al Qaida terror group while Mohammed Sakr died fighting for al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaida, in Somalia, according to reports.

But Ms Shuter said there was nothing to indicate the pupils were being radicalised and would go on to slaughter innocent people.

She said: "There was never any sense that any of these young men as I knew them were radicalised when they were in school."

Ms Shuter said "categorically nobody on the staff was ever told" that three former pupils had travelled abroad to fight for the terror groups and she insisted the academy did not have a problem with extremist literature circulating in the classrooms.

Emwazi later graduated with a degree from the University of Westminster, an institution which has been dogged by claims it has been targeted by Islamist extremists.


From Belfast Telegraph