Two British Islamic State jihadists who died in Syria were killed by an RAF drone strike, David Cameron has said. Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan, 21, and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, died last month in Raqqa, alongside another fighter, in the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen, Mr Cameron told MPs.
Khan – the target – had been plotting “barbaric” attacks on UK soil, he said. The “act of self defence” was lawful, despite MPs previously ruling out UK military action in Syria, the PM said. Khan was killed in a precision strike on 21 August by a remotely piloted aircraft, “after meticulous planning”, while he was travelling in a vehicle.
Another British national, Junaid Hussain, 21 and from Birmingham, was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on 24 August. Both Khan and Hussain had been involved in actively recruiting IS “sympathisers” and plotting to attack “high-profile public commemorations” taking place in the UK this summer, the prime minister said.
The attorney general had been consulted and agreed there was a “clear legal basis” for the strike on Khan, Mr Cameron added. Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman urged the government to publish the legal advice. Downing Street said it was a “long-standing convention that we do not publish advice of the law officers”.
Mr Cameron told MPs: “My first duty as prime minister is to keep the British people safe.” In reference to Khan, he added: “There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him. “This government does not for one moment take these decisions lightly. But I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and have to explain to the House why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done.”
Kat Craig, from human rights group Reprieve, called the air strike “deeply worrying. Make no mistake – what we are seeing is the failed US model of secret strikes being copied wholesale by the British government,” she said.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the targeting of Khan by his own country had set a precedent. The prime minister’s official spokesman said any future decisions on whether to target IS militants believed to pose a threat to the UK would be taken on a case-by-case basis, and declined to say whether any other such strikes have been authorised.