British IS 'suicide bomber' received less than £1m compensation, says his wife



The wife of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee reportedly killed in an Islamic State suicide bomb attack in Iraq has said he received "substantially less" than £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.

According to Channel 4 News, al-Harith's wife Shukee Begum claims that the sum he received from the British government was "substantially less" than the £1 million being reported, and that it was an out of court settlement and not compensation.

The news programme said Ms Begum also claims that there was "not much money left" but that taxpayers' money may have been used to pay for his extremist activities, including, she believes, funding his travel to Syria where he joined IS.

Following questions over the monitoring of al-Harith, his wife claims he was "stopped and questioned by UK authorities for six hours on his return" from a trip to Gaza in 2009, but apart from this she believes that "he was not monitored", the programme said.

Ms Begum also told Channel 4 News that when she was in contact with al-Harith, he was "involved in the distribution of aid in al-Bab and was ideologically opposed to suicide attacks".

After his release from Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and return to the UK, she said that for nearly ten years he did not pose a threat.

She told the programme his radicalisation began in late 2013, and was a response to "atrocities committed by the regime in Syria".

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.

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.