Iraq crisis: ISIS militants threaten UK, says Cameron

 
David Cameron During Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron announced extra humanitarian aid for Iraq

David Cameron has warned of the threat to the UK if an "extreme Islamist regime" is created in central Iraq.

He said Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters threatening the government in Baghdad were also plotting terror attacks on the UK.

And Britain could not ignore the security threat the UK now faced from jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Downing Street said 65 people have been arrested in the past 18 months for Syria-related jihadist activities.

A spokesman was unable to say how many of those arrested were supporters or members of ISIS.

The prime minister, who was chairing a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday, has ruled out military intervention in support of the government of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

'Ungoverned spaces'

He said it was up to the Iraqi security forces to "push back" ISIS fighters and also urged the Iraqi government to do more to reconcile Shia, Sunni and Kurdish groups.

But he also stressed that the UK could not ignore the security threat the UK now faced from jihadists in Iraq and Syria, and spoke of the need to help governments "close down ungoverned spaces" to stop the conditions for terrorism flourishing. He also announced extra humanitarian aid for Iraq.

The fighting between ISIS and Iraqi security forces, who are supported by Shia militias, has focused around the city of Baquba, 60km (35 miles) from Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, while Iraq's largest oil refinery is also under attack.

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Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner

Frank Gardner

At Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron told MPs: "The people in that regime - as well as trying to take territory - are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom."

There has been no public threat from ISIS of an attack against the UK and there are no details available of any actual attack planning by it.

However, it is perfectly plausible and there are bound to be things that the intelligence agencies pick up that they share with the National Security Council but not with us, the public.

The worldview of ISIS is vehemently anti-Western. It has an estimated 2,000 recruits from Europe, including 400 to 500 from UK, and it would take just one order from their amir (commander) to send some jihadists back to Britain to carry out an attack.

All the sources I have spoken to say that while "the blowback issue" - the threat of UK jihadists returning to carry out attacks - has not gone away, recent events in Iraq have not so far affected the underlying terror threat to Britain. This remains at 'substantial', the third highest on a scale of five, meaning the threat of a terrorist attack "is a strong possibility".

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'Hard-headed'

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron said: "I disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq it won't affect us. It will.

"The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.

"So the right answer is to be long-term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make, and the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space and they remove the support for the extremists."

Mr Cameron also promised to do "absolutely everything we can" to protect Britain from the terrorist threat from fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.

Volunteers training at a base in Najaf, 100 miles (160km) south of Baghdad, Iraq, on 17 June Volunteers have been training at a military base after a call for Iraqis to help fight the insurgents

The UK has said up to 400 British nationals are fighting alongside militant groups in Syria.

The prime minister said several people had already been stopped from travelling to conflict zones, and preparing a terrorism offence abroad would become a criminal offence under legislation to be put before Parliament in the next few months.

Downing Street later revealed that the UK security service had arrested 65 people suspected of Syria-related jihadist activities in the past 18 months - including 40 in the first quarter of this year.

'Jihadist threat'

The spokesman was unable to say how many of these arrests were linked to people planning to travel to Syria or to offer support to rebels in Syria, and how many related to fighters who had returned from taking part in the civil war.

Up to 14 people have also had their passports seized to stop them going to Syria to fight over the past year.

The total of 14 seizures between April 2013 and March this year related to people suspected of links with terrorism and extremism or serious and organised crime, but the prime minister's official spokesman said "a significant number of them" were Syria-related.

Ed Miliband seeks an assurance that British nationals fighting in Iraq could not return to the UK and engage in extremism

The Downing Street spokesman said the figures underlined the prime minister's warning about the security threat that the UK now faced from jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

"Syria is now the number one source of the jihadist threat," the spokesman added.

'Inform and educate'

Earlier, Baroness Neville-Jones, a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who was security minister between 2010 and 2011, said the prime minister was right to take the "mounting threat" extremely seriously.

"As a direct threat to us, ISIS has only relatively recently emerged, but it has been operating in Syria for quite some time," she told Radio 4's Today programme.

"Unfortunately the UK exports more young men to become jihadist in Europe than any other. The intelligence picture is clear. The numbers are there."

Older Muslims in communities across the UK, she said, had a responsibility to try to "inform and educate" younger men about the dangers of radicalisation to stop them from travelling to conflict zones.

In the long term, the UK needed to ensure that young Muslim men were fully integrated into their communities and felt that they had a stake in society, she said.

 

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  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 755.

    I think it can be misleading to label the conflicts with religious terminology

    These disputes are about power and territory. The religious aspect has been conflated in order to recruit support from the natives. Christianity used to do the same. If you believe God is on your side you can excuse the inexcusable

    But the religions are a tool here, not the cause. The villains are just greedy men.

  • rate this
    -27

    Comment number 514.

    True Islam is not a threat to Britain or any other country.

    British people who become Muslim are not foreigners or jihadis. The silent moderate majority are not going to fight in Syria and Iraq or give up their fish and chips.

    Islam is peaceful. That's how Muhammad brought together warring tribes.

    Terrorists are terrorists and should be treated as criminals whichever religion they hijack.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 462.

    It wasn't so long ago that having an Irish accent was enough to get you arrested on trumped up charges of terrorism. Have we not learned that we need to separate terrorism, faith, and race within the exercise of the law. Jailing or deporting people who are terrorists or incite terrorism isn't racist just because they are Muslim. However neither are they a terrorist just because they are Muslim.

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 412.

    This is too little too late. We have had a decade in which many British Muslims regard the west as their enemy and the Jihads going on as their own wars. How long does it take the establishment to wake up and do something constructive? No doubt we will have to put returnees into our own version of Guantanamo Bay. They should have been prevented from going in the first place.

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 394.

    Its a sad state of affairs on the one hand you have the extremists on the other hand law abiding citizens for those who have chosen the Path to Fight in Iraq, Syria or anywhere else should not be allowed to return to the UK and lose their British Nationality and take up residence in the Country of their own free choice in which they have taken up arms. All Religions have Extremists not one

 

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  50.  
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    • 16 April: BBC produce seven-way debate with the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru
    • 30 April: Sky News and Channel 4 produce head-to-head debate between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition
     
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    • Plaid Cymru demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any Westminster coalition talks after the general election in May
    • Researchers at Oxford University estimate the number of migrants settling in England increased by 565,000 in the past three years, with two-thirds coming from other EU countries
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says he will "do his best" to avoid personal attacks on his opponents during the general election campaign
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    "His cowardice shows the modern-day Tory party has no heart or soul. It, fundamentally, doesn't know what it stands for."

     
  60.  
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    Peter Robinson

    The DUP has released a statement saying it will not align itself with the main parties to seek narrow advantage in any coalition negotiations - but will focus on delivering for Northern Ireland.

    DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson MLA said: "Our MPs will not be part of any government coalition. We will not be seeking any Cabinet seats or any narrow party political advantage. The DUP will use its influence to further the best interests of Northern Ireland and of the Union. Unlike other parties we are not ideologically tied to any one of the major parties at Westminster but can do business with either the Conservatives or Labour."

     
  62.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson
    ComRes/ITV poll

    tweets: ComRes/ITV poll on public reaction to GRN party policies

     
  63.  
    @MichaelPDeacon Michael Deacon, Telegraph sketchwriter

    tweets: ‏THE WAITING IS ALMOST AT AN END. Green Party press officer says Fully Costed Manifesto will be published "towards the end of March"

     
  64.  
    @johnestevens John Stevens, Daily Mail reporter

    tweets: "Visual minuting" of Natalie's speech #greensurge #gpconf

    Green confernce
     
  65.  
    @TotalPolitics Total Politics

    tweets: Weekly polling review: Conservatives pulling ahead?

     
  66.  
    14:48: 'Vote for the party that cares'
    Green conference

    "I say to you very simply, vote for the party that cares", Ms Bennett tells her conference as she brings her speech to an end. "Vote for the common good. Vote for the politics of the future. Vote Green."

     
  67.  
    14:47: 'Change Britain'

    There are people who want to see business as usual, Natalie Bennett says. To counteract them, we need people use their votes, she adds. If we all vote Green, "we can change Britain".

     
  68.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Free social care paid for by wealth tax, higher taxes on those earning over 100k, tax avoidance, Robin Hood tax under Green plan

     
  69.  
    14:45: Young 'have it tough'

    Younger generations "have it tough", Ms Bennett says. That's not the fault of their elders, she adds. "We need to look out for each other."

     
  70.  
    ‏@SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Financial transactions tax - "Robin Hood tax" - and more tax on those earning over £150k going down well in hall #GreenSurge

     
  71.  

    A financial transaction tax would be introduced by the Greens and those earning over £100,000 "should pay more, says Ms Bennett.

     
  72.  
    14:43: Care plan 'means jobs'

    Free social care for those over 65 would mean 200,000 new jobs and training places, Ms Bennett says. It will be a core pledge in their manifesto.

     
  73.  
    @rosschawkins 14:43: Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Natalie Bennett wants free social care for over 65s

     
  74.  
    14:42: 'New taxes are needed'

    The Greens will restore equal care for all - that principle should apply to social care too, Green leader Natalie Bennett says. "Those who have the most should contribute most - new taxes are needed."

     
  75.  
    14:41: Remove market from NHS

    That's why I'm delighted to work to introduce an NHS reinstatement bill that removes the market from the NHS, Natalie Bennett says.

     
  76.  
    14:41: Bennett - NHS

    In the NHS, the infiltration of the profit must be reversed, Ms Bennett says. The market "costs us big time", she adds.

     
  77.  
    @LabourList LabourList

    ‏tweets: 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens labli.st/1KxwLym

     
  78.  
    14:39: Greens: Power and wealth

    The current model of economics and society serves those with power and wealth, says Green leader Natalie Bennett. We must be citizens first and foremost - paying to common funds to look after the old, weak, poor and sick. This is what the politics of the future will look like, she adds.

     
  79.  
    14:38: No Tory deal

    "Just imagine a strong group of Green MPs", Natalie Bennett says. That group would never support a Tory government, she continues. They would have a huge say and could help develop that new politics she has been talking about, she says.

     
  80.  
    14:37: Climate change

    Speaking about climate change, Natalie Bennett says "we have to be up to the task". She says change has to come - the market is short-sighted and short-term. It is blind and senseless and works for the 1%.

     
  81.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: .@natalieben: "Noone should be worrying about a fracking drill burrowing into the heart of their community". Eh? #gpconf

     
  82.  
    14:36: Food banks

    Almost half jobs since 2010 are for self-employed people, but many of them are living in poverty, Natalie Bennett says. Individual charity isn't a substitute for collective justice, she says of food banks.

     
  83.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Ed M last week "a society that works for all and not just a few"; Bennett today "society that works for the many not just the few"

     
  84.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Bennett words almost identical to Miliband's — society that works for the many not just the few

     
  85.  
    14:35: 'Demand for change is louder'

    Up and down the country campaigns demanding new politics are growing, Natalie Bennett says: "The demand for change is louder and clearer, at last, the people are fighting back."

     
  86.  
    14:34: 'Green surge'

    The Green surge is more than a hashtag or numbers, Natalie Bennett says. It's the result of members' "commitment" and "hard work". The Greens are a "central player" in British politics, she says.

     
  87.  
    14:33: 'Nobody should live in fear'
    Bennett

    Nobody should live in fear of not being able to put food on the table or going into debt to pay for education, Natalie Bennett says. The politics of the future is not the politics of transaction, she says. That is the "old" and "failed" politics.

     
  88.  
    14:29: 'Politics of the future'

    The "politics of the future delivers for everyone" in our one planet, Natalie Bennett adds. "That's the politics of the Green Party."

     
  89.  
    14:28: 'Agents of change'

    "Britain could be a very different country on 8 May", Natalie Bennett tells delegates at the party's conference. The Greens can be the "agents of change" looking to the "politics of the future", she says.

     
  90.  
    14:27: Political revolution

    Natalie Bennett says voters will have the chance at the election to start "a possibility of a peaceful political revolution". People will be able to stop the poor being punished for the mistakes of the wealthy, she says. "We can deliver a Britain which delivers to all people - a Britain which cares", she adds.

     
  91.  
    @SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Punchy speech from Caroline Lucas - now Natalie Bennett needs to make sure she's not upstaged by the warm up act

     
  92.  
    14:26: Natalie Bennett speech
    Natalie Bennett

    Natalie Bennett on her feet at Green conference now. She thanks Caroline Lucas for being "the stand-out MP" in the current Parliament. She's confident she will be in the next Parliament and beyond, too. It's been a momentous year for the party, putting it at the forefront of British politics and making it the third largest in England and Wales.

     
  93.  
    14:25: Politics without austerity

    Caroline Lucas says the party will defend politics without austerity, nuclear power or demonisation of those who need the welfare state or those who come from abroad.

     
  94.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas says "opposition to austerity" links @theSNP & @TheGreenParty, calling for a "progressive alliance" between the two #gpconf

     
  95.  
    14:24: NHS pledge

    It's the Greens who set the agenda on a number of issues, Caroline Lucas says. She says the party will champion the NHS reinstatement bill - to reverse "marketisation" of the health service.

     
  96.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Caroline Lucas supposed to be introducing Natalie Bennett in show of support. Risk she might simply upstage her

     
  97.  
    14:23: 'More MPs'

    "Just imagine what we can do if we elect more MPs", Caroline Lucas says, adding that leader Natalie Bennett is putting the Greens on course to do that.

     
  98.  
    14:22: Progressive alliance

    With the rise of the SNP and Plaid, we have the chance to form a "progressive alliance", Caroline Lucas, the Greens' MP tells the party's conference. They've worked before on their opposition to austerity and after the election, they could do more is her message. If Labour are a minority government, the Greens could stop them pandering to big business, she says, adding: "Support them when they do the right thing, block them when they're wrong".

     
  99.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas tells Green party activists at the #gpconf that leader @natalieben is doing a "fantastic job"

     
  100.  
    14:18: Caroline Lucas

    On the general election, Caroline Lucas MP says the Greens are challenging from "a position of strength". This election is different, she says because they have something to defend - her seat in Brighton and Pavilion. That victory has given the party a voice in Parliament, to show "you can be a force for good in politics without selling out your principles".

     

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