The papers: 'Jihadist threat to the UK'

  • 22 June 2014

Saturday's newspapers had much about the recruitment video released by young British and Australian Muslims fighting with the extremist Isis group in Syria and Iraq, and Sunday's press takes on the story, with more details of the UK-born militants.

The Mail on Sunday focuses on one man, 20-year-old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff, showing a picture of him as a young teen among friends in his Welsh school. It asks "What turns this boy from a leafy British suburb into a terrorist?"

The paper traces his changing life by examining his Facebook posts, which start as a sport-loving teenager, complaining about homework and posing with a family pet, and end as a young man "revealing his increased fanaticism" in "rants" about Isis and its increasing control of parts of Iraq.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Isis controls a large swathe of central and western Iraq with the help of Sunni Muslim sympathisers

In a comment piece in the paper, Maajid Nawaz of the anti-extremist Quilliam think tank calls for the West to use a pragmatic strategy over the conflict of Iraq,.

He said it should assert what influence it has over regional allies to ensure they take on the fight against Isis, rather than directly intervening and resurrecting "domestic sympathy for extremism".

The Sunday Telegraph's story focuses on Nasser and Aseel Muthana who it calls "the brilliant brothers" - high academic achievers who left Cardiff with Reyaad Khan to fight in Syria.

The paper says the boys' father, satellite dish fitter Ahmed, "collapsed with shock" and needed hospital treatment on being told by police that both his sons had obtained false passports and had travelled to the combat zone.

The paper highlights other Britons linked to the extremists, including Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary from London, whose father, the Telegraph says, was a confidant of Osama bin Laden.

He has posted tweets aimed at his fellow Britons warning of "beheadings in your backyard", the paper adds.

In its leader column, the Telegraph says "education is the key to combating fundamentalism".

It praises the government's push to teach "British values" in schools and instil an understanding in youngsters "of the organising principles of the society they live in".

"If they fully understand British values, they will understand how vastly superior these values are to the barbarism of Isis and its international brigade."

The Sun on Sunday focuses on what the paper says is the youngest Briton to fight in Syria: 18-year-old Mohammed Hadi from Coventry.

The paper speaks to friends of the teenager who say that he adopted extreme views after being "brainwashed" at "extremist mosques".

The Sun echoes the Telegraph's call for the education system to combat extremism, but adds "social media like Twitter need to realise that they are becoming an essential tool in the extremists' tactics.

"They need to take responsibility - and act."

The Independent on Sunday leads with a claim by the former head of anti-terrorism at MI6, that as many as 300 Britons who have fought with jihadist forces in Syria may have returned to the UK.

Richard Barrett says the conflict has been an "incubator of new terrorists" with combat skills.

He has co-authored a report suggesting that one in nine foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq will return to become a terrorist threat in their home countries.

Mr Barrett and his co-authors claim there are more than 12,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war.

The Sunday Times says that some Britons who have fought in the Middle East are "faking their deaths to sneak back in" to the UK.

It adds that one "martyred" jihadist has already been arrested by the security services after turning up alive in Dover.


'Misjudged'

David Cameron's immediate battles are within the context of the European Union - and he appears to be losing them, according to much of Sunday's press.

The Sunday Times says former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker is set to be appointed as the new president of the European Commission, against Mr Cameron's implacable opposition.

A Downing Street source tells the paper: "Our chances of stopping him are now the same as England's of winning the World Cup."

Mr Juncker, the paper continues, has signalled he "will not tolerate" changes to Europe's rules on the free movement of workers, which Mr Cameron is seeking to renegotiate.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron told Chancellor Merkel that the election of Jean-Claude Juncker (above) would make the UK more likely to leave the EU

In its inside pages, the Times carries a letter from 54 leading British business people warning they are "extremely concerned" that the government is failing to "protect the UK from European plans to tax the City and impose new red tape".

The Observer says an "angry" Mr Cameron is to force a vote from other EU leaders at a forthcoming summit to try to find out why other candidates have not been considered.

Amid the turmoil the paper publishes a poll, which suggests that 47% of Britons would vote to leave the EU if treaty renegotiations fail (against 37% who would vote to stay), but if the prime minister's moves to change the terms of British membership succeed, more would want to stay in than would want to exit.

Matthew Elliott, of the campaign group Business For Britain, writes in the Sun that Mr Juncker -"another career politician" and an "arch-federalist" - is the last thing the EU wants in its top job.

"If the EU is serious about sorting its own act out, it would appoint a successful businessman, not another eurocrat, to the position.

"Imagine an EU run by someone with experience of running a successful enterprise - someone who had worked in the real world?" he adds.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, John Rentoul says Mr Cameron has "misjudged" the position of his "main ally" German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and faces an uphill battle in the struggle to achieve his sort of Europe.

"Cameron often scoffs at people who said it would be 'impossible' for him to veto the banking treaty, or to block the rise in the EU budget... but renegotiating new terms of UK membership is a quite different kind of 'impossible'," Rentoul reckons.


Pizza

The British Army is losing a fight too, the Sunday Times says: it is losing the "battle of the bulge".

The paper explains that 32,000 soldiers were too unfit to perform basic fitness tests - push-ups and sit-ups - at some time during the past three years.

The figures - obtained by a freedom of information request - have been blamed on the "appalling" diet served to recruits.

The Times says troops in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan enjoyed "daily cooked breakfasts, a cheeseboard, pizza and choice from an extensive dessert buffet boasting profiteroles, ice-cream and cheesecake."

A senior officer told the paper: "Walk around any British Army barracks anywhere in the world and you will see plenty of overweight male and female soldiers."

The paper's report reveals that 50 soldiers have been dismissed for obesity in the past three years, and weight issues seem particularly problematic in Scottish units, with the Royal Regiment of Scotland alone recording 630 fitness failures.

Perhaps the military should call in Jamie Oliver.

In an interview in the Observer, the former Naked Chef, now - as the paper reveals - the head of enterprises employing 8,000 people, with an annual profit of £10m, reveals how he thinks technology can beat obesity.

Oliver shows the paper a "Jawbone" device - a wristband that records sleep, movement and dietary information about its wearer.

He tells the paper that with more development "the devices could prove the key to helping doctors understand their patients' lifestyles and become an enormous help in the battle against a destructive and unhealthy diet."

That's a battle in which children are at the frontline and the Daily Mirror reports that the health secretary is considering banning celebrities from endorsing "unhealthy" foods.

Jeremy Hunt commissioned a report from Action on Sugar over concerns that one in three British youngsters are overweight.

The ideas also include banning "junk food" from sponsoring sport, a move the Sun decries as "nanny state".

It looks like there are many more battles ahead in the pages of Britain's newspapers.

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