Shamima Begum Should Be Treated as a Threat, Says UK Counter-Terror Chief

LONDON - AUGUST 11: An armed British police officer patrols outside of Heathrow Airport on August 11, 2006 in London, England. The UK security threat level is to stay at "critical" as police continue to question 24 suspects following a suspected plot to blow up several aeroplanes was uncovered. (Photo …
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The UK’s counter-terrorism commander has said that Shamima Begum should be treated as a security threat and arrested if the former teen ISIS bride wins her case to return to the UK.

The 21-year-old from London had left for Syria aged 15 to marry an Islamic State fighter. She was discovered last year in a Kurdish-run detention camp for family members of jihadists, and, despite showing no remorse for joining the terror group, asked to be repatriated to the UK.

Then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship, and last month the Supreme Court heard her application to have the right to return to Britain to challenge her disenfranchisement in person. The senior judges are expected to give their ruling in the new year.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu told the Evening Standard on Tuesday that if Begum is permitted to return, she should be treated as a threat to national security, arrested, and her alliance to the terror group assessed.

“She’s the big exemplar of the problem we have of the assessment of threat and risk” of returnees from Islamist warzones like Syria, the counter-terrorism commander said, adding: “She’s also someone who would expect to be arrested and investigated for her activity and nobody who has travelled there who has said the things publicly that she’s said should be under any illusion.”

In the course of the past year, Ms Begum had made some startling remarks, including admitting that she was not upset when she saw her first severed head, expressed disappointment that Islamic State was losing, and appeared to condone the Manchester Arena Islamist terror attack that killed 22 people, most of whom were children and women.

Media also reported claims that Begum was not a mere Caliphate housewife, but a morality police “enforcer” who carried a Kalashnikov rifle who also stitched suicide bomber vests.

Mr Basu said: “My job is to assess whether she’s a threat to the British public and that is something that would involve her being investigated by counter-terrorism policing. A returning foreign fighter or somebody who has supported a cause has to be treated as a threat until I know otherwise.”

Addressing the Supreme Court last month, lawyers for the government said Begum had been assessed as posing “a real and current threat to national security” who had aligned herself with Islamic State, remaining loyal to the terror group “until the very end”.

Begum’s own lawyer also admitted that “there is always a possibility” she is a threat.

Mr Basu said the UK does not need to “import a greater problem” while the country is already on alert for terror threats. Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel raised the threat level to the second-highest state of “severe”, meaning that an attack was “highly likely”.

The Henry Jackson Society warned in July that if Begum in successful, some 150 jihadists could attempt to come back to the UK legally to challenge having their citizenships removed, causing a potential headache for security services.  The Met assistant commissioner also told the Evening Standard that there were “well over 800” terror investigations in the UK — a record high.


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