UK

Labour attacks government over IS video suspect

Abu Rumaysah Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Siddhartha Dhar is a Muslim convert who uses the name Abu Rumaysah

The "system has failed" after the main suspect from a so-called Islamic State video fled the UK while on police bail, the shadow home secretary has told MPs.

Andy Burnham said the British suspect - Siddhartha Dhar - had been allowed to abscond despite being arrested six times on terror-related offences.

Home Secretary Theresa May said bail decisions were a matter for the police.

Mr Dhar is the focus of the probe into the video, which appeared to show the killing of five men IS says were spies.

The father-of-four, from Walthamstow in east London, fled Britain in 2014 while on bail.

Who is Siddhartha Dhar?

Muslim convert Mr Dhar - also known as Abu Rumaysah - had been arrested on suspicion of encouraging terrorism, but later travelled to Syria.

'Same conclusion'

There has been no official confirmation of the identity of the man in the video who threatens to attack Britain, but a forensic expert has told the BBC there was "a strong degree of similarity" between his voice and that of Mr Dhar.

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner said: "A government official said MI5, the Security Service, had reached the same conclusion.

Image caption Siddhartha Dhar, also known as Abu Rumaysah, left London two days after he was released on bail in September 2014

"It will now be up to the prime minister and senior members of the government's National Security Council to decide if there is sufficient legal justification - on grounds of self-defence - to target the militant in the video with a precision drone strike."

Several British jihadists were killed this way last year, including Mohammed Emwazi, also known as "Jihadi John", our correspondent added.

The UK's security services are facing mounting questions over how Mr Dhar was able to leave, given that one of the conditions of his bail was to hand over his passport.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons on the matter, Mr Burnham said: "The fact that this individual could abscond when facing major charges raises serious questions about counter-terrorism policy."

He wanted to know what the home secretary knew about Mr Dhar's case and if he had been placed on a terrorist watch list at any stage.

The shadow home secretary also produced a letter Mr Dhar received reminding him of his bail conditions and the need to surrender his passport by 3 October 2014.

He said the letter was sent a month after that deadline, and Mr Dhar had already left the country in September.

Mr Burnham also asked how many individuals were currently on bail for terror-related offences - and whether their monitoring arrangements were adequate - and called for an inquiry into all the issues raised by what he called a "major lapse in security".

Victims

In reply, the home secretary said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

She talked generally about counter-terrorism measures, including how the government was working to remove extremist videos from the internet - about 1,000 pieces of unlawful terror-related content were being secured for removal every week, she said.

Mrs May also provided an update on the number of people from the UK, of national security concern, believed to have travelled to Syria - she said more than 800 people had gone since the start of the conflict and about half of them had returned.

Image copyright IS video
Image caption A still from the latest IS propaganda video

The latest video by the extremist group also features a boy with a British accent. After the apparent killings, he is seen pointing into the distance and talking about killing "unbelievers".

He has not been officially identified, but the BBC has spoken to a woman from London, Victoria Dare, who says the boy resembles her grandson.

When shown a picture of him, taken from the video and printed in a newspaper, she told the One Show: "It has been nearly three years, so he must have grown up.

"The eyeballs, the eyelashes, then the mouth, the lips. It looks like Isa."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionVictoria Dare says the boy in the video by so-called Islamic State looks like her grandson

In the 10-minute video by the extremist group - which has not been independently verified - the masked man, who is holding a gun, mocks Prime Minister David Cameron for daring to "challenge the might" of the extremist group.

Five men, wearing jumpsuits and kneeling in a desert location, appear to be shot in the back of the head, after making what is claimed to be their confessions. IS says they were spying for the UK.

The BBC's James Reynolds spoke to a brother of one of the victims - Ha'il Marwan Abdul Razaq - at a secret location in Turkey.

His brother Manhal, a democracy activist, said the 40-year-old was "just a normal person".


Who were the victims?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJames Reynolds meets a relative of one of five men killed by Islamic State, who were accused of spying for Britain

Istanbul-based activist Abu Furat is from Raqqa and knew some of the men killed in the video released by so-called Islamic State.

He told the BBC they were not spies, but activists who had businesses in Raqqa, and were trying to portray life in the IS stronghold.

Abu Furat said Mahyar Mahmoud al-Uthmaan used to be an aid worker and also worked for the Red Crescent. Ha'il Marwan Abdul Razaq owned a number of shops and previously worked for an agricultural organisation, he added.

Abu Furat said IS is cracking down on internet cafes and activists after the success of recent coalition air strikes, which have killed high profile members of the militant group.

"This video shows that they are disappointed and we doubt that the men they shot are working or spying for the UK. They are liars in that. These were innocent people. Maybe there could have been other accusations against them, but not this."


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