'A challenge for years to come': Report finds that 425 of 850 Britons who went to fight for Isis have returned

Briton Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, and Kadiza Sultana, a 17-year schoolgirl from East London, both died in Syria

About 850 people from the UK have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis — with 425 returning, a new report has found.

The Soufan Center found that at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries travelled to support the terrorist group, which last week lost its stronghold of Raqqa.

In a report, the centre warns that while Isis faces a threat to its existence in the Middle East, “its appeal will outlast its demise”.

It noted that “while it will be hard to assess the specific threat posed by foreign fighters and returnees, they will present a challenge to many countries for years to come.”

A number of British jihadis have died in Syria, including Sally Jones, known as the White Widow and her son, as well as and Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John. 

Kadiza Sultana, a 17-year schoolgirl from East London, also died in an airstrike this year, becoming one 19 Britons under the age of 20 to die in Iraq or Syria, according to the BBC.

Salman Abedi, 22, may have been to a terrorist training camp in Libya

Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, grew up in the northwest city, but had travelled into the UK from Libya just days before the attack.

Mashudur Choudhury became first person in the UK to be convicted of terrorist offences related to Syria conflict after travelling from Portsmouth to the country to attend a terrorist training camp.

The report notes that the flow of fighters came to a “virtual standstill” as Isis began to lose its territory in both Syria and Iraq and states implemented better measures to prevent travel.

It also reports that while returning foreign fighters have not as yet added “significantly” to the threat of terrorism around the world, the number of attacks inspired or directed by the Islamic State continues to rise.


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It notes that “all returnees, whatever their reason for going home” will continue to pose some degree of risk.

It says that states have not learnt how to deal with returnees — particularly women and children, as they struggle to understand how best to reintegrate them.

“Proper mental health and social support mechanisms will be especially relevant in the case of children,” it adds.

The final picture of the White Widow and her son

This week, the minister for international development said the only way to deal with British Isis fighters is to kill them.

Rory Stewart said that, “in almost every case”, militants in Syria can expect to be killed because of their “extremely hateful doctrine”.

He said they can expect to be killed because of the “serious danger” they pose to the UK’s security. The government said his opinions were in line with the UK’s policy.