By Alison Barnett
The recent release of several videos showing the execution of Western journalists and aid workers has brought attention to a growing problem in the fight against ISIS. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, alternately known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just Islamic State), is an Islamic terrorist group operating in Syria and Iraq, taking advantage of the instability of the region to take control of parts of both countries. These videos, featuring a British-accented ISIS militant, have focused a spotlight on British, and other foreign citizens traveling overseas to join the extremist group. The most recent of these videos was released on Friday, and showed the murder of a British aid worker named Alan Hemming. The ISIS militant blames Mr. Hemming’s death on the recent military actions of the United States and Great Britain against ISIS, saying “his blood is on the hands of the British Parliament.” He then introduces another hostage, an American Iraq War veteran named Peter Edward Kassig, who was also an aid worker. Both the US and UK have been conducting air strikes against suspected ISIS enclaves, which may have led to this retaliation.
An estimated 12,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria. While they are mostly from other Middle Eastern Countries, the British Government believes as many as 500 of them came from Britain. About 50 have returned and are being prosecuted. While most of the British fighters are men, some women have traveled to become the wives of ISIS fighters, to support their husbands and raise the next generation of terrorists.
Many of them have been recruited online.
Looking to combat this problem, The United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution last month, calling upon member nations to help stop traveling fighters bound for or returning from ISIS-controlled territory. British Prime Minister David Cameron, addressing the Security Council, declared that “the threat to our security from foreign fighters is far greater today that it has ever been in previous conflicts.” Addressing the videos and the suspected nationality of the ISIS fighter appearing in them, he said “British people are sickened that a British citizen, a British citizen, could be involved in murdering people – including a fellow British citizen who had gone to Syria to help people – in this way.” The British government currently has the power to strip dual citizens and naturalized British citizens of their citizenship, and can take away the passports of all British citizens who have been involved with ISIS. The government is also looking into finding ways to prevent British terrorists from returning to Britain, and to censor extremist content on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Prime Minister Cameron, speaking earlier this week at a Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, addressed concerns about British citizens fighting for ISIS. Speaking directly toward the fighters, he told the crowd “You are an enemy of the UK and should be expected to be treated as such.” He said “we will use everything at our disposal to stop you.”