Britain’s spy chiefs gathered with the Prime Minister at Chequers yesterday to discuss action against ISIS propagandist ‘jihadi John’, after another brutal video depicting the beheading of a British citizen was released, but a second attempt to deliver justice to the British-born murderer may too fail as he and his hostages may be too well defended.
The heads of domestic, foreign and communications intelligence wings of the British government known as MI5, MI6, and GCHQ respectively were summoned by the Prime Minister for a discussion on the latest killing, and so he could order them to take immediate steps to locate the killer of British hostages Alan Henning and David Haines. Just hours later it has been reported that ‘jihadi John’ has been seen by a Reaper drone, yet still remains frustratingly out of reach.
In a now recognisable format, the latest hostage killing was blamed on a particular event in world politics, this time focussing on the UK parliament voting to launch air-strikes against the Islamic State. The Government, which refuses to pay ransoms for citizens taken hostage is keen to appear proactive in its response, after criticism by the angry families of those already killed accused the state of abandoning it’s citizens abroad.
The Times reports there is already a team of British special forces in the region on standby, ready to act should an opportunity occur, however there are significant difficulties to overcome first. ‘Jihadi John’ has already been the subject of one botched attempt by American special forces in June, which was made to free American hostages whom have now been killed. It is understood by the time the team had planned their mission and deployed the group had already moved on.
The main obstacles to a successful mission is the group holding hostages is highly mobile, is constantly moving through Syria, and are extremely well defended. A source quoted by the Daily Mail within the special forces community said despite the location of the group being known sporadically, including today as they were captured by a passing drone, to launch an attack now would be “suicidal”.
Despite the significant risk it would pose to civilians and hostages, the same source said an area bombing campaign would be preferable to a special forces mission. This may stand at odds with the stated intention of the Prime Minister to bring the killer, who is believed to be a British citizen to “Justice”, which presumably means being forcefully returned to the UK to answer murder charges.
The identity and background of the ISIS killer known as ‘jihadi John’ has been the subject of speculation in the media since his first execution video in August. It has been claimed that Western intelligence agencies now know his identity but details have not been confirmed due to operational reasons.