Father of British Isis volunteer says his son has ‘betrayed’ his country
Repercussions of Syria and rise of Islamic extremism will be felt for ‘many years’ to come, says UK security experts
Screengrab of Isis recruitment video showing what is believed to be Nasser Muthana (right), a 20-year-old from Cardiff. Photograph: YouTube/PA Wire
The father of two young men who travelled to Syria to join an extremist Islamic group has said that his eldest son has “betrayed” his country.
Ahmed Muthana spoke of his shock after his 20-year-old son Nasser appeared in a recruitment video for the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), urging UK Muslims to join insurgents in Syrian and Iraq.
Mr Muthana, from Cardiff, said he feared his sons — 20-year-old Nasser Muthana, and 17-year-old Aseel Muthana — would be killed if they stayed in the country and says he believes they were brainwashed in the UK.
A mosque in the city where the brothers worshipped distanced itself from the struggle in Syria and said it was not the source of radicalism, despite claims that a notorious Saudi cleric had preached there.
It comes as security experts in the UK declared the repercussions of Syria and the rise of Islamic extremism at home will be felt for “many years” to come.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and head of specialist operations, warned that Britain would feel the long-term consequences of the conflict, and young British Muslims who have travelled to fight in the war-torn country might commit violence when they returned.
Richard Barrett, a former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, estimated that “possibly up to 300 people have come back to the UK” already, and warned that intelligence services faced an “impossible” task in trying to track them.
He told the BBC: “Clearly they’ll have to prioritise and they’ll have to choose those that they think are likely to pose the greatest risk.
“Beyond that I think they’ll have to rely very much on members of the community and other people expressing their concern and worry about the behaviour of perhaps their returned friend or family member.”
He said that while recruiting networks across Europe suggested of greater radicalisation than people just going on their own, it did not necessarily indicate that people would progress from fighting in Syria to being a terrorist at home.
Former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox warned that Britain’s security services may need greater powers of surveillance to monitor British fighters returning from Iraq and Syria and said officials could need more freedom to intercept communications by extremists.
He told the Guardian that the UK needed to “reconsider” the argument of restricting the powers of the state, saying: “The whole area of intercept needs to be looked at. We have got a real debate, and it is a genuine debate in a democracy, between the libertarians who say the state must not get too powerful and pretty much the rest of us who say the state must protect itself.”
But the Financial Times reported that the Foreign Office was halving its counter-terrorism budget, slashing it from £30m (€37.6m) a year to £15m (€19m) as part of plans to cut £100m (€125m) from the department’s budget by next year.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Countering terrorism is one of the Government’s top priorities and it therefore remains one of the FCO’s largest programmes.”
“The FCO is not decreasing its work in this area — instead we are increasing our resources on the highest priority terrorist threats to the UK and UK interests, such as the Middle East and Africa. ”
Nasser Muthana appeared in the Isis video alongside another young man from Cardiff, Reyaad Khan, 20. The pair knew each other from the same secondary school, the Guardian said.
Mr Muthana senior told the newspaper: “I used to have him in my car. I’d take them to the mosque. He seemed fine. Like all of them.”
Mr Muthana said he felt his son had left down both his family and his country, saying: “This is my country. I came here aged 13 from Aden when I was orphaned. It his his country. He was born here in the hospital down the road. He has been educated here. He has betrayed Great Britain.”
A mosque where the Muthana brothers worshipped, the Al-Manar centre in Cardiff, said it was not the source of radicalism and blamed the internet for affecting the pair. But the Daily Mail said Saudi cleric Mohammed al-Arifi, who has called for holy war and the overthrowing of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, spoke there in 2012.