Experts fear the Islamic State fighters who have sneaked back in could use skills honed on the battlefield to carry out atrocities in the UK like the Paris and Brussels attacks
by Stephen Jones
The shock figure admitted by the Government last night is much lower than that Government Ministers had previously claimed.
It means that almost 400 jihadis trained in Syria and Iraq are at large on Britain’s streets, The Mail on Sunday reports.
Experts fear the fighters could use skills they honed on the battlefield to carry out atrocities in the UK – similar to the Paris and Brussels attacks where hundreds of innocent people were massacred.
New figures reveal that the Home Office believes 850 Britons have travelled to fight for Islamic State – many of whom have been killed in battle and by allied drone strikes .
But about 400 fighters are believed to have sneaked back into the UK.
Despite it being a crime to attend any terrorist training camps – and also to be a member of ISIS – only 14 people have been convicted.
Ministers admit they mistakenly claimed the number was 54 earlier this year, The Mail on Sunday claims – as it wrongly included those who’d been fundraising for terrorism or trying to reach the war zone.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd is being urged to give more money to the Border Force to catch terrorists as they sneak back into the UK.
She is also being called on to ensure that police and MI5 have enough officers to find those who have already made it here.
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood believes thousands of Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq.
He said: “It is a tiny number who have been prosecuted and it’s absurd to say this is any form of success.
“If they know who they are, they should be prosecuted but the police and security services don’t have the resources to do that.
The University of Buckingham’s Director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, Professor Anthony Glees, told The Mail on Sunday that the “minuscule” number of prosecutions was “very disturbing”.
“These people have been trained to be killers and people will think it beggars belief [that they haven’t been prosecuted]. What message are we sending out to the world?
“If you go out to join a regime like so-called Islamic State, you forfeit your right to come back.”
Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: ‘Data from the Crown Prosecution Service shows that they have successfully prosecuted ten cases involving 14 defendants who
have returned to the UK and are suspected of having fought in Syria and/or Iraq.
“All those who return from engaging in the conflict in Syria and Iraq can expect to be subject to investigation to determine if they have committed criminal offences abroad or represent a threat to our national security.’
At present police and MI5 attempt to contact all those who return from the war zone to try to establish how dangerous they believe they are.
The Mail on Sunday claims some are left alone if they ‘only went to experience life in the so-called Islamic State’ or to deliver humanitarian aid – but others may be put under surveillance if they are a potential threat.
Other returnees are referred to NHS mental health services or the Channel deradicalisation programme if it is felt they can be turned away from extremism, it adds.
Among those returnees who have been jailed is Imran Khawaja – who tried to sneak back into the UK undetected by faking his own death and was jailed for 12 years last year.