Prime Minister says 2 British nationals killed in airstrikes were plotting attacks

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In a speech before the UK parliament today, Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the Syrian refugee crisis, the counterterrorism measures being taken to combat the Islamic State, and other related issues.

Confirming press accounts, Cameron said that three British nationals have been killed in recent airstrikes carried out by the UK and US in Syria. And British intelligence believes two of them were involved in planning attacks in the West.

Reyaad Khan, a British national, and two of his “associates” in the Islamic State were killed in a Royal Air Force (RAF) drone strike on August 21. The three men were “traveling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqa,” Cameron explained. One of Khan’s two compatriots was a UK national named Ruhul Amin.

Three days later, on August 24, Junaid Hussain perished in an American airstrike in Raqqa.

According to Cameron, Khan and Hussain “were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting [Islamic State] sympathizers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain, such as plots to attack high profile public commemorations, including those taking place this summer.”

“We should be under no illusion,” Cameron continued. “Their intention was the murder of British citizens. So on this occasion we ourselves took action.” Cameron said the airstrike that killed Khan was only carried out after “meticulous planning” and was “an act of self-defense.”

Cameron argued that the UK was left with “no alternative” but to strike because “there is no government” to work with, the UK has “no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots,” and officials had no indication that Khan “would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home.”

“So we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action,” Cameron said.

Last year, Khan was featured in an Islamic State propaganda video alongside two others from the UK. Khan was introduced as “Brother Abu Dujana al Hindi – from Britain” in the video. Khan and his comrades called for others to join the jihad.

Junaid Hussain didn’t hide his desire to assist plots in the US and UK. Indeed, his digital trail helped Western officials hunt him down. Earlier this month, The Washington Post cited anonymous officials as saying that “Hussain was tracked in part by monitoring his online activities” and that the British government was “consulted on the decision to make him a target.”

Even before he relocated to Syria in 2013, Hussain had built a reputation as a hacker. He broke into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s digital address book and posted some of its contents online. The stunt landed him several months in jail in 2012.

In Syria, Hussain reportedly helped lead the “IS Hacking Division” and the “cyber caliphate.” The latter claimed credit for obtaining CENTCOM’s passwords for its Twitter and YouTube pages in January. Both pages were temporarily rebranded with imagery from the “cyber caliphate,” which also posted information on US personnel. Press reports fingered Hussain as one of the main suspects behind the CENTCOM social media hackings.

Hacking web pages and address books wasn’t Hussain’s only specialty. In one iteration of this Twitter feed, “Abu Hussain Al Britani” (believed to be Junaid Hussain) listed his user names for several encrypted applications, saying that anyone interested in carrying out attacks could learn how to do so using the apps. After his death, some high-profile Islamic State supporters blamed Britani’s use of apps that aren’t totally secure for his demise.

Abu Hussain al Britani’s Twitter presence drew suspicion in May and June, when his comments seemed to indicate ties to terrorists and extremists in the US.

On May 3, two gunmen opened fire at an event dedicated to drawing images of the Prophet Mohammed in Garland, Texas. As first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, Britani quickly claimed the gunmen were acting on behalf of the caliphate. Then, in June, Britani claimed on Twitter that he had encouraged Usaamah Rahim, an Islamic State supporter, to carry a knife in case anyone attempted to arrest him. Rahim was shot and killed by police in Boston after allegedly wielding a knife.

Cameron said the strikes on Hussain and Khan are part of larger effort to contain the threat of jihadist terrorism. “Since 2010 over 800 people have been arrested and over 140 successfully prosecuted,” Cameron said. In addition, British aircraft have launched “nearly 300 air strikes over Iraq” and assisted operations in Syria in order “to tackle the threat at [the] source.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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6 Comments

  • mike merlo says:

    Cameron is just one of the many bozo’s elected to lead many of the countries now trying to explain away or excuse their collective incompetence & naivete. So some guy now hangin out in the Iraqi Syrian Theater fightin for ISIS/ISIL is ‘revealed’ by ‘Intelligence’ to be scheming against the West with some dark sinister plan designed to inflict pain, ‘punishment,’ mayhem, murder, etc., on the West. WOW! What a major revelation & to think the Fumblelina’s in the Intelligence Community managed to reach these conclusions all on their own.

    “Cameron argued that the UK was left with “no alternative” but to strike because “there is no government” to work with….” yet every few days or so Cameron & the rest of his elected brethren whine about Assad having to go & the respective Terrorist Armies of Al-Nusra & ISIS/ISIL Governing & Administering the terrain that they occupy pretty much meet the criteria of Governments. I’m sure either one of those groups would be more than pleased to entertain ‘conversations'(“work with”?) with Cameron & any one of his elected brethren. Besides there are always the Iranians & Russians whom I’m sure would welcome a tete-a-tete over some Earl Grey. Just the usual lazy half hearted bloviating by an elected male mammary feigning resoluteness. What ah joke

    • TRM says:

      If you think ISIS or al Nusra want to talk to us you obviously aren’t listening to what they say. Try reading DABIQ some time.

      • mike merlo says:

        they’ll talk to anybody. Just because one doesn’t get the response they’re seeking in no way precludes them from talking. Don’t think for one minute these guys won’t consent to a sit down. These are very savvy, clever, cunning, etc., people many of whom are ex Baathist’s who served under Saddam. Saddam never had problem indulging in talks of any sorts with anybody & these ISIS/ISIL are no different. While you’re at do some research on Suruc & Turkeys MIT relationship with ISIS/ISIL/IS.

        Al Nusra is no different. They obviously had no problem accommodating the Turks by vacating an area by the Syrian Turkish border that the Turks designated for occupation. You actually believe those arrangements were arrived without any dialogue between
        Al Nusra & Turkey’s MIT? If so then you should spend some serious revisiting & researching just how all these Moslem Nations & ‘Groups’ ‘Operate’ & conduct affairs betwixt each other.

    • Tony says:

      Well, the strikes themselves benefit Assad, despite what conspiracy theorists on the Internet might say. The West already is helping Assad, there’s just been no official public reconciliation. I doubt there will ever be one. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference between the rigid philosophies of Nusra/Islamic State or the Shiite entities. The only real difference between them is that one ideology is on the fringes while another is a vast, powerful and accepted worldwide entity that commands respect and influences countries. At their core, they would have no problem making the world become just like them. And that doesn’t disturb me anymore, it’s fact. They say it themselves quite often.

  • Paddy Singh says:

    It does not matter whether they were planning to kill people back in the UK. They were Isis and deserved to be killed. the Defence Secretary was right when he said he would do it again.

  • Robert Brooks says:

    As long as the lawyers approved the strikes, it’s all good, lol…

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis