Crackdown on UK jihadists, and hospital 'parking cowboys' - the papers

The murder of US journalist James Foley by Islamic State (IS) extremists operating in Iraq and Syria has brought the issue of how the group might be stopped back to the newspapers' front pages.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Syria's President Assad: His "brutal repression of dissent ignited" civil war, the Independent writes

Much of the coverage focuses on the hunt for "Jihadi John" the British-sounding man pictured in a video with Mr Foley, and widely assumed to have been his killer.

The Times says police are set to launch raids aiming to identify the man. The paper says MI5 and the FBI have drawn up "a shortlist" of suspects.

The Guardian says the security services are using face-mapping technology - which has been used to identify masked dissident republicans in Northern Ireland - to identify the jihadist.

Writing in the paper, Deborah Orr said IS's most effective weapon was a "camera and every media outlet in the world. And that's a massive weapon".

Stig Abell in the Sun agrees.

"The murder of Foley was an HD video ready to be shared across the internet in an instant," he writes. "It was terrorism designed as viral marketing."

The Sun and the Daily Express are among a number of papers to speculate about "John's" identity - providing a list of some of the Britons assumed to be fighting with IS militants.

The Guardian says the extremist group has launched a major offensive in Syria aimed at splitting the country in two.

The Independent says that "despite official denials" there is evidence that the western powers will "u-turn" their policy and make a tacit alliance with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The paper points out that the chief of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, has said that the IS cannot be defeated in Iraq without also being defeated in Syria.

It claims that the US has been covertly "passing on intelligence" to the Damascus regime, using the German intelligence service as an intermediary.

Image copyright Alan Ford
Image caption Lord Palmerston was a famously pragmatic British foreign secretary and prime minister

Such a covert alliance would be welcomed by former British diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer, who, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says our national interest "demands the mother of all u-turns".

He concedes such a move would "stick in the caw" of many, but quotes Victorian statesman Lord Palmerston who said "We have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests."

The Times's leader column on the other hand says that if the West "aligned" itself with Assad it would "destroy its credibility in the Muslim world".

"It would in effect be acknowledging that Assad, through stealth and slaughter, had won his war."


'Ideological Hygiene'

The hunt for "Jihad John" sets off a wider discussion on Muslim radicalisation in the press.

The Daily Telegraph carries an article by the Home Secretary Theresa May.

She signals she is prepared to use "all legal powers" to "counter British extremists".

"I am looking at... powers to tackle extremists who seek to radicalise others," Mrs May writes.

"We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a deadly extremist ideology," she adds.

These proposed new powers, the Telegraph explains, are thought to include an "Asbo for extremism".

Elsewhere in the paper, Andrew Gilligan says that with an estimated 500 Britons among IS ranks, the UK has allowed itself to become "the Yemen of the West".

He says the country is a "wellspring of extremism" because of two failings: it was too tough in extending detention without trial and stop-and-search measures which "left Muslims... feeling under attack", but too weak by being "ridiculously tolerant and indulgent" towards a "small minority of Muslim radicals".

The Daily Mail carries the words of former Labour minister Kim Howells who says Britain has allowed its Muslim communities "to become isolated, to look inward instead of trying to integrate with the rest of society" under the guise of multiculturalism.

"We're paying a very, very bitter price for that now," he says.

The Independent quotes academic Dr Afzal Ashraf, a consultant to the Royal United Services Institute.

He says Britain's problem with radicalisation began when it allowed "troublemakers to seek political asylum".

"That has now changed," adds Dr Ashraf, "but the seeds were sown in the late 1980s and 1990s."

"We also have significant historical links to Pakistan and Bangladesh, where people have been influenced by extreme interpretations of Islam propagated by certain Middle Eastern countries.

"For many years, we were not strong enough in confronting this and allowed the contamination of some of our communities through what I would call 'poor ideological hygiene'".

Matthew Paris in the Times says we should not "lump all Muslims in the extremist camp".

He quotes a sample of anti-Muslim comments left on the paper's website as typical of a "hatred" that is now "almost routine".

"Mainstream communicators bite their lip, but just beneath the surface something is heaving: a relentless swell of anger against Muslims, all Muslims."

Paris adds: "What does human nature suggest is the likely response of some hotheaded young man from, say, Bradford to the news that some readers of the Telegraph and The Times want to wipe his like from the face of the Earth? To feel drawn, surely, closer to the jihadists."


Common concern

The other major story to occupy British newspapers on Saturday is the news that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to order a relaxation of rules on hospital car parking to ensure seriously ill patients are not penalised.

The move means "victory over the parking cowboys", the Daily Mail reckons.

The paper says "cowboy parking operators" had been allowed to "impose huge fines for trivial infringements" of parking regulations at NHS hospitals.

"Cancer sufferers and patients whose treatment has over-run are among those who have been ripped-off," it adds.

New guidelines will urge hospitals in England to scrap CCTV-based parking enforcement in favour of clearer pay-on-exit systems.

Anna Bradley, of Healthwatch England, tells the Mail that complaints about parking charges "were by far the most common concern raised by patients and their families".

The paper says Mr Hunt's new guidelines are "a major victory for the Daily Mail's campaign to protect vulnerable patients".

The Daily Express says the announcement is "a major victory" for its "crusade to prevent thousands of people up and down the country being ripped off by extortionate charges".

The paper notes that free or low-cost parking must now be provided for the relatives of gravely ill patients, or those staying in hospital for an extended period, staff working shifts and disabled people making frequent outpatient visits.

The paper's leader column says "let us hope these changes are quickly implemented and adhered to by all hospitals.

"Going to hospital, for whatever reason, has just become a little less stressful."

The Sun is the third paper to claim Mr Hunt's guidance was issued in response to its campaign.

It quotes MP Frank Field, who says the move is a "great breakthrough" for the paper's ongoing "Rip-off Britain" campaign.

Its leader notes that "hundreds of GPs' surgeries" still make patients phone "expensive" 0845- numbers "five years after being ordered to stop".

But it warns hospitals that might ignore the health secretary's guidelines, that "we'll be watching".


Sausage surge

They say the British love to talk about the weather, and rarely is that more true than at the start of a bank holiday weekend.

The Daily Star says that "defiant" Brits are preparing to "grill in the chill", as thousands of barbecues are planned despite temperatures slumping to colder than arctic Norway in parts of the UK.

Forecasts of widespread rain on Bank Holiday Monday has not "dampened the spirits", the paper adds, with Asda recording a 200% surge in sausage sales and a 230% boost for beer.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Hardy Brits will do battle with the elements in their primordial quest to grill things, the Daily Star says

The Guardian takes a less booze flavoured view of the incoming weather front and declares "autumn to arrive early for holiday weekend".

It says the Met Office has told it the "unseasonable chill" is "unusual" for this time in year.

It has sparked, the paper notes, a "last-minute rush for overseas holidays" with First Choice and Thompson joining the supermarkets in welcoming increased August sales.

The Daily Mail notes "it wouldn't be a bank holiday weekend without railway engineering works, motorway chaos and, of course, a dose of good old gloomy British weather".

The Daily Mirror lists some of the predicted "travel chaos" awaiting the 14 million cars it says will hit the UK's roads this weekend.

Roadworks on the M25, M5, M6 and the M27 are "likely to make congestion even worse", it says.

Add to this, 40 separate railway engineering works, including West Coast Main Line services between Hemel Hempstead and Euston, and all routes through Swindon, and the Mirror's conclusion is "holiday getaway? don't bank on it".

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