November 21, 2013
Four British nationals have died while fighting for a rebel extremist group against the forces of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria, reports say. Their deaths highlight the increasing international scale of the conflict, and come amid fears of the threat posed by extremists returning to the UK once their part in the war is over.
Security officials and experts say there is a real danger that the Islamists will look to pass on the skills and experience learned in Syria, radicalising and training up more recruits back in Britain. Among the four British fighters killed in recent months was Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove in West London, according to reports. He died while his group in the al-Nusra front, a rebel force linked to al-Qa’ida, was attempting to ambush Assad’s troops in August. He reportedly went by the name “Abu Khalid”, and appears armed with an AK-47 and dressed in rebel uniform in photographs taken in Syria.
Security concerns over what might happen if fighters like Araj survive the conflict and are allowed to re-enter the UK were raised last month when two men who had returned from Syria were arrested on suspicion of hatching a terrorist plot.
The Foreign Office said it was looking into the report that four British nationals had been killed in recent weeks in the conflict.