22 June 2014
Last updated at 06:00
Ms Dick said Britain would be living with the consequences of Syria for “many years”
UK police will have to deal with the threat of British fighters returning from Syria for “many years”, a top Scotland Yard officer has told the BBC.
Met Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said the conflict represented a “long-term” terrorist threat.
She said young British Muslims might commit violence on their return.
Her comments came after an apparent internet recruitment video for jihadists in Syria and Iraq appeared to feature several Britons.
The video was posted by internet accounts linked to militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which has a presence in Syria and is engaged in fierce fighting with Iraqi government forces.
One of the men in the video has been identified as aspiring medical student Nasser Muthan, 20, from Cardiff.
Meanwhile, the BBC understands two men who travelled to Syria with Nasser were held on suspicion of terror-related offences on their return to the UK but were not charged.
South Wales Police said the men, aged 19 and 23 and from Cardiff, were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of receiving terrorist training and attending a place used for terrorist training in Syria.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Ms Dick – who is currently head of specialist operations including counter terrorism at the Met – warned Britain would face “the consequences” of the conflict in Syria for years.
More than 50 people have been arrested in the UK since 2013 for alleged Syria-related offences.
But Ms Dick would not be drawn on the extent to which UK police have already had to confront security threats from British jihaddis fighting in the Middle East.
She said: “I’m afraid I believe that we will be living with the consequences of Syria – from a terrorist point of view, let alone the world, geopolitical consequences – for many, many, many years to come.”
Ms Dick said that until a few weeks ago police believed around 460 Britons had gone to fight in Syria, but said the figure could now have climbed to around 500.
She said her message to anyone thinking of travelling to Syria or Iraq to join the fighting was not to go, saying Syrian people regarded foreign fighters as a problem, not a solution.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis)
Isis grew out of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq
- Estimated 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
- Joined in its offensives by other Sunni militant groups, including Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and disaffected Sunni tribal fighters
- Exploits standoff between Iraqi government and the minority Sunni Arab community, which complains that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is monopolising power
- Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an obscure figure regarded as a battlefield commander and tactician
Jihadi groups around the world
Nasser’s father, Ahmed Muthana, said his son left the UK to fight in Syria in November, telling BBC Wales that his 17-year-old younger son, Aseel, had also travelled to the country.
Nasser Muthana’s family said they were “heartbroken”
He said another man in the video, which cannot be verified, was someone he recognised from Cardiff.
Barak Al Bayaty, a trustee for one of the Cardiff mosques attended by Nasser Muthana, said the Britons might have been radicalised via the internet.
He warned against “demonising the Muslim community itself”, adding “the vast majority of Muslim people are really worried about this situation and are working with us to try and identify those people that may be at risk”.
It comes as an estimated 5,000 young people from across the UK are attending a residential event in Surrey this weekend organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association to rally against radical Islam and pledge their loyalty to Britain.