Minister's position on killing British IS fighters 'in almost every case' backed


A minister who said the only way of dealing with British Islamic State fighters in Syria is to kill them in almost every case was speaking in line with the Government's stated position, a spokesman said.

International development minister Rory Stewart said converts to the terror group believed in an "extremely hateful doctrine", saying fighters can expect to be killed given the threat they pose to British security.

Hundreds of British citizens are known to have travelled to Syria to fight with Islamist groups during the course of the six-year conflict.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Brett McGurk, a top US envoy for the coalition fighting Islamic State (IS), has said his mission is to ensure every foreign IS fighter in Syria dies in Syria.

Mr Stewart was asked about the comments on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

The minister said they were "very difficult moral issues", adding: "These are people who have essentially moved away from any kind of allegiance towards the British Government.

"They are absolutely dedicated, as members of the Islamic State, towards the creation of a caliphate, they believe in an extremely hateful doctrine which involves killing themselves, killing others and trying to use violence and brutality to create an eighth century, or seventh century, state.

"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."

International development minister Rory Stewart
International development minister Rory Stewart (Bob Collier/PA)

Mr Stewart, a former diplomat, went on to say: "These are people who are executing people in the back of their heads, who have held women and children hostage, who are torturing and murdering, trying by violence to impose their will.

"Our response has to be, when somebody does that, I'm afraid, to deal with that."

Responding to Mr Stewart's comments, a Government spokesman said they are consistent with the position set out by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon on October 12, when he told British IS fighters in Syria and Iraq: "You have made yourself a legitimate target and run the risk, every hour of every day, of being on the wrong end of an RAF or USAF missile."

The spokesman added: "Nobody should be in any doubt about our determination to fight and defeat Daesh terrorists, regardless of nationality.

"Anyone who does travel to Syria, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger - particularly if they are fighting for our enemies."

Mr Stewart also said British authorities had made it "very clear" that people should not be volunteering with militia groups to fight IS.

"If you wish to serve your country and you wish to fight terrorism, then please apply to join the military or join the police or join our intelligence services, we'll train you, we'll work with you to do it in a legal and controlled fashion," he said.

Landmines and explosives still threaten the people of #Raqqa. #UKaid is preparing for vital supplies to keep Syrians safe

-- DFID (@DFID_UK) October 22, 2017

Mr Stewart also confirmed it remained British policy to remove Syrian president Bashar Assad.

"I don't think anyone should be in any doubt that the control that he has is brutal and ultimately fragile," said Mr Stewart.

"The policy of the British Government is that Bashar al-Assad needs to step aside and we need transition to a new government, because so long as that man is in power, it is going to be impossible to have a long-term, stable, sustainable future for Syria."