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MI6 boss warns Britons returning to UK from ISIS pose a 'potentially very dangerous' threat - but CANNOT be stopped from entering the UK

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 15/02/2019 Tim Stickings For Mailonline
Alex Younger, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, delivers a speech at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Britain December 3, 2018.  Andrew Milligan/Pool via REUTERS © Getty Alex Younger, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, delivers a speech at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Britain December 3, 2018. Andrew Milligan/Pool via REUTERS

The head of MI6 has warned that ISIS fighters returning to Britain are 'potentially very dangerous' but cannot be stopped from entering the country. 

In rare public comments, Secret Intelligence Service chief Alex Younger said returning militants had acquired 'skills and connections' which would make them a threat. 

It comes amid a fierce debate over East London schoolgirl Shamima Begum, whose family have pleaded for Britain to let her return after she fled to join ISIS in 2015.  

a woman standing in front of a building: Shamima Begum seen at Gatwick Airport leaving the UK for Syria on February 20, 2015 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Shamima Begum seen at Gatwick Airport leaving the UK for Syria on February 20, 2015

Mr Younger's comments put him at odds with Home Secretary Sajid Javid who had indicated he would block her from re-entering Britain. 

Thousands of people have fled from ISIS as the terror group battles for its final patch of territory in Syria.  

Speaking in Munich, Mr Younger did not comment on Ms Begum's case specifically but warned the returning fighters were an 'extremely complex and difficult problem', the Evening Standard reported. 

Video: Shamima Begum: British Isis member who fled to Syria 'has right to return to UK (The Independent)

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'Public safety is the first thing that we will consider,' he said at the Munich Security Conference. 

'It follows from that that anyone who has put themselves in this situation can expect to be questioned and investigated and potentially prosecuted if they return to our jurisdiction. 

'We are very concerned about this because all experience tells us that once someone has put themselves in that sort of position they are likely to have acquired the skills and connections that make them potentially very dangerous.

Sajid Javid wearing a suit and tie: Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured in London on February 12) has indicated he would block Begum from re-entering Britain © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured in London on February 12) has indicated he would block Begum from re-entering Britain

'The reality is that so far, it has been a completely manageable problem.

'I can't predict accurately what will happen in future, but it's a very complex environment.'

British nationals had a right to return to the UK, he said. 

But the head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said British nationals who want to return can expect to be investigated, and anyone allowed to come back will have to live under stringent limitations.  

He said: 'The threat posed by UK nationals seeking to return from Syria or Iraq is something we have planned for and have been managing.

'Together with our intelligence partners we have been using a wide range of measures and powers available to us to mitigate this threat.'

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: A general view of the MI6 headquarters on August 17, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) © Getty LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: A general view of the MI6 headquarters on August 17, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Mr Basu added: 'Anyone who returns from Syria or other conflict zones, having gone in support of any proscribed terrorist group - whether that's fighting for or against Daesh - or for any other illegal purposes, can expect to be investigated by the police.

'Any investigation is carried out with an open mind and based on the evidence available. This is to determine if individuals have committed any terrorist or other criminal offences, regardless their motivation, and to ensure that they do not pose a danger to the public or the UK's national security.

'There can be no hope of repatriation without these investigations taking place, and anyone who does return to the UK from conflict zones can, at best, expect to live under stringent limitations set out in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act.

a person with collar shirt: Abase Hussen, 52, the father of Amira Abase, welcomed news that his daughter and her friend Shamima Begum are alive ans said that they should come back to Britain if then can © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Abase Hussen, 52, the father of Amira Abase, welcomed news that his daughter and her friend Shamima Begum are alive ans said that they should come back to Britain if then can 'We as a society must learn that we can stop this from happening in the first place by trusting our Prevent strategy, reporting our concerns early and stopping people being radicalised, investigated and, most likely, criminalised by the poisonous rhetoric spewed by terrorist organisations of any ideology.'

Sajid Javid had said he would 'not hesistate' to stop the return of people who left Britain to join ISIS who he said were 'full of hate for our country'.  

Mr Younger said ISIS, or Daesh, has morphed and is proving 'adept at inspiring at attacks rather than directing them', he said.

'Al Qaeda, which has always been in a rivalry, and almost zero sum relationship with Daesh, has, I think, undergone a certain resurgence as a result of the degradation of Daesh. It is definitely not down and out.'

Mr Younger also indicated that former spy Sergei Skripal could still be in danger from Russia, after he survived an assassination attempt in Salisbury lat year. 

Russia was 'intent on breaking up the links and alliances that exist' between Western states and that he was determined to attach a cost to any such efforts, he said.

a close up of a mans face: Shamima Begum (pictured in her passport photo) is now 19 and is alive in Syria - she wants to return to the UK © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Shamima Begum (pictured in her passport photo) is now 19 and is alive in Syria - she wants to return to the UK Asked about Skripal, he said: 'I think there is a standing threat from the GRU (military intelligence agency) and other Russian intelligence services and that very little is off limits.' 

Yesterday, the father of one of the 'Bethnal Green three' said Britain has a duty to welcome Shamima Begum back. 

He told MailOnline: 'She should be allowed to come home and have her baby in peace'.

Abase Hussen, whose daughter Amira is thought to be alive and still alongside ISIS in Syria, said the schoolgirls are victims who should be 'helped, not punished'. 

Miss Begum is heavily pregnant with her third child and living in a Syrian refugee camp. She says Amira is alive but Kadiza Sultana, the third girl who fled the UK with them, died in an air strike two years ago.

a group of people around each other: Mr Hussen (circled) attended a heat preacher's rally alongside one of Lee Rigby's killers - and took his daughter - yet said he moved to Britain in 1999 for freedom and democracy © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mr Hussen (circled) attended a heat preacher's rally alongside one of Lee Rigby's killers - and took his daughter - yet said he moved to Britain in 1999 for freedom and democracy Mr Hussen, 52, who once was filmed at a London flag-burning rally attended by Anjem Choudary, said the three young jihadi brides had 'just made a mistake'.

'These girls were young,' he told MailOnline. 'They were manipulated by evil people and they should be brought home and helped. Not punished. They pose no threat.

'The British government have not done anything to help me or the other parents. We have been badly treated. 

'Shamima should be allowed to come home and have her baby in peace. 

'I'm just waiting for the time when I can see my daughter. Ever since she left I have had hope. Tomorrow is another day. You never know what will happen tomorrow. The last time I spoke to her was a very, very long time ago.'

When asked if he thinks the girls should be able to return to Britain to restart their lives, he said: 'As a parent there is no question. To have your children around you... there is no question. That would make me happy. It gives me some hope as well.'

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited He added: 'It was just a mistake that the girls left their families to go to a place like that.

'What I would say to her, if she reads this, is just come back, please. Come home to us. That's all I can say'. 

Mr Hussen, who has two other grown up children, said he and his wife had lost contact with Amira last year.

'The last conversation we had with my daughter was over a year ago when she called out of the blue,' he said.

'I was full of so much sorrow that I couldn't speak with her properly. My heart is filled with grief.

'I have two other teenage children and I constantly worry about what they are getting up to and that they might also be radicalised. I'm a humble man, I fear God and don't deserve this.'

Mr Hussen, a security guard, said three families of the runaway girls had been in close contact when they went missing in 2015, but had gradually lost touch.  

'There's been no co-ordination in helping our children to return,' he said. 'Nothing is being done for us.

'The intelligence services visited a few times but we've had no help from the government'.

a close up of a hat: This is the profile picture used by Bethnal Green runaway Amira Abase on her Twitter page, which has been shut down © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited This is the profile picture used by Bethnal Green runaway Amira Abase on her Twitter page, which has been shut down Mr Hussen, who has been in the UK since 1999, originally comes from Ethiopia, where Amira was born. 

He blamed police for failing to stop his daughter fleeing to join ISIS. 

But months after she vanished it transpired that he had taken her to an extremist rally when she was just 13.

He conceded the teenager was 'maybe' influenced by the rally organised by banned terror group Al-Muhajiroun.

Shocking footage subsequently emerged of him amid a flag-burning mob, screaming in rage at a protest outside the US embassy in London, in 2012. 

Also at the rally were hate cleric Anjem Choudary and Michael Adebowale, one of the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

He later apologised for attending, but admitted going to two further rallies – with his impressionable daughter in tow.

One took place outside the Saudi embassy in London, in 2013, and is said to have been organised by the Islamic extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, founded by hate cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed and linked to many Islamic terror atrocities of the past decade.

The rally was held against the treatment of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia after human rights violations, and Mr Hussen, 47, who is from Ethiopia, said: 'We both lost many people back home, we wanted to try to get help for people back home, too many human rights violations there. Many died. Maybe it influenced her.'

a man sitting on a bench in a park: Mr Abase, 53, says the families of the 'Bethnal Green three' have been badly treated © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mr Abase, 53, says the families of the 'Bethnal Green three' have been badly treated

Ms Begum, now 19, was tracked down by The Times to a refugee camp in northern Syria where she is the bride of an Islamic State fighter, nine months pregnant and has had two infant children who are dead. Her husband is in captivity.

Stating that 'I don't regret coming here,' she told The Times: 'I'm not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago.'

She also told the paper: 'The caliphate is over. There was so much oppression and corruption that I don't think they deserved victory. 

'I know what everyone at home thinks of me as I have read all that was written about me online. But I just want to come home to have my child. That's all I want right now. I'll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child.'

Ms Begum, Kadiza and Amira , who all attended Bethnal Green Academy, left their homes in February 2015 to join a fourth Bethnal Green schoolgirl in Syria who had left London they year before. They each married an Isis foreign fighter, according to The Times.

a man posing for the camera: Kadiza Sultana, then 16, Amira Abase, then 15, in images released by police in 2015 after they ran off to Syria. Miss Sultana was killed in an air strike © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Kadiza Sultana, then 16, Amira Abase, then 15, in images released by police in 2015 after they ran off to Syria. Miss Sultana was killed in an air strike Kadiza was reported to have been killed in an airstrike on Raqqa in May 2016, while Ms Begum has recently heard second-hand from other people that Amira, and the other schoolgirl who left Britain in 2014, may still be alive.

When she arrived, Ms Begum was put in a house where jihadist brides-to-be waited to be married, she said.

Ten days after arriving in Raqqa in 2015, she wed a Dutchman who had converted to Islam. She claims her husband was later arrested, charged with spying and tortured.

She left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a girl aged 21 months and a three-month-old boy, both died in recent months. Her son had an unknown illness worsened by malnutrition, The Times said.

Ms Begum said she had a 'mostly' a 'normal life in Raqqa, interrupted every now and then by 'bombing and stuff'.

She told the paper: 'But when I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn't faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam.

'I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.'

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