Home secretary Theresa May praises work done to stop flow of young Isil fighters

Home secretary Theresa May with editor of The News Mark Waldron
Home secretary Theresa May with editor of The News Mark Waldron

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HOME secretary Theresa May has praised families whose relatives have left to fight in Syria for warning of the crippling impact it has on their lives.

The Tory politician said it was encouraging that young people are being warned not to join conflicts in Syria and Iraq by community groups and families.

And in a visit to The News at its Portsmouth headquarters yesterday, Mrs May said ministers are committed to bringing in new powers blocking jihadis leaving the country and then trying to come back from conflict.

Police could be given extra powers to seize passports at airports and decisions will be made over what form of punishment would be most appropriate for those returning.

Mrs May said: ‘We are working on trying to get across some preventative messages to people about not going to Syria, and it’s not only the government doing that, there’s support work being done by charities.

‘Some of the most impactful messages are from families of people who have been to Syria and from mothers talking about the impact that someone going can have on the family.

‘Syria has proven to be an attraction for people to go and fight and the message we have been giving is if you want to help the people of Syria then the best way to do this is from here in the UK.

‘We do a number of things in relation to people who might be trying to go to Syria to fight or who have gone to Syria to fight, and we will be introducing some new legislation before the end of this month which will further improve our capabilities in this area.

‘We have got some very strong anti-terrorist laws in this country but we are looking to see if there are other areas we need to introduce in dealing with people in this country.’

As reported, Mehdi Hassan, 19, a former pupil at St John’s College in Southsea, became the fourth jihadi from Portsmouth to be killed in Syria in the space of a year last month.

Manunur Roshid, 24, from Buckland, was killed on Friday, October 17.

Mahammud Rahman, 25, a Primark worker, died in August and Ifthekar Jaman, 23, the first from Portsmouth to travel to Syria, died in December.

Despite the spotlight being put on Portsmouth over the situation, Mrs May believes the radicalisation of Muslims is not an isolated problem and pockets of communities around the country are facing the issue.

‘The rise of Isil has attracted people from a wide sector of cities around the country then was perhaps the case where before people would travel abroad to go and train with a terrorist organisation,’ she said.

‘The phenomenon of people leaving the UK to go to other parts of the world and then coming back is a new one.’

Mrs May admitted the threat of terrorism is very real and praised authorities for working ‘day and night’ to ensure the public are being protected.

‘It was right the national threat level was raised and we should be concerned about the security threat that is there,’ she said.

‘We have been dealing with a terrorism threat since groups like Al Qaeda and there is a diversity of other groups.

‘There are a lot of other factions like Isil and we have seen groups in North and West Africa.

‘What we need to do as a government is make sure we have the right tools in dealing with this.

‘This is a 24/7 job, and I believe we are fortunate to have the work that is being done by the police and other agencies, who are working out there to keep people safe.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt revealed a series of events will happen throughout the week starting Monday, November 24 in the city with police to raise awareness of the problem.

One of the aims will be ensuring vulnerable members of society are not influenced and persuaded to leave the country. It comes after Councillor Donna Jones, Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, issued a plea for authorities to work together to stop more being tempted to fight abroad.

Ms Mordaunt, who will be involved at an event being held at Fratton Park, said: ‘I don’t think there is a problem in Portsmouth disproportionately to anywhere else, it can happen anywhere and we need to ensure we have got something that works everywhere.

‘We will be looking at what more we can do here in Portsmouth and making sure the vulnerable are not being targeted.’

Mr Jaman’s brother Mustakim Jaman, 23, of Hudson Road, Southsea, was remanded in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on October 27 charged with ‘having the intention of assisting others to commit acts of terrorism and of engaging in conduct in preparation for this cause.’

Tuhin Shanesha, 26, also of Hudson Road, has been charged with one count of preparing acts of terrorism.

Both will appear at the Old Bailey on November 14.

Four men from outside Portsmouth have also been arrested in connection with an alleged Islamist terror plot. It was revealed earlier this month extra armed patrols would be drafted in for the Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day commemorations in London due to increased fears of a terrorist attack.

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