British Extremists in Syria Either to Flee or Fight

British Extremists in Syria Either to Flee or Fight

Monday, 10 September, 2018 - 12:00
A Syrian opposition fighter rests at an unknown location in the Idlib province. (AFP)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
British extremists in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib faced the choice of whether to flee or fight over the weekend as an offensive by the Syrian regime appeared imminent, the Sunday Times reported on Sunday.

Officials in the region fear that renewed fighting will push dozens of British militants to attempt to escape — possibly to the UK.

Russian and Syrian forces ratcheted up fears of an offensive on Sunday when they unleashed a wave of airstrikes, the heaviest in a month, on Idlib’s southern border, the Times added.

At least nine people were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The vast majority of Idlib’s population are civilians, who risk being massacred. Some 70,000, however, are of the opposition factions. Many have previously refused to surrender to the regime.

A former al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, is believed to control more than half of Idlib, and elements in the group explained that it includes hundreds of Europeans, including dozens of British, Dutch and Germans.

There are many British fighters in Idlib, according to experts in London, and perhaps the biggest proof is that there are three shops that sell popular UK candy, including: Java cookies, Maltesers, Smarties and Rolls.

As the military campaign approaches Idlib, officials from all sides are trying to figure out whether foreign militants will fight to death or try to flee.

A source close to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham described these elements as people who live for their extremist cause and will not surrender.

He pointed out that Turkey, which supports the opposition groups in Idlib, has tried to dismantle the group in an attempt to avoid a military strike on Idlib.

"British Syrians who want to return to Britain usually resort to smuggler Ammar Shami, who takes 12,000 dollars per person. He has smuggled many Hayat Tahrir al-Sham members to Germany in 2017," the source said.

The Daily Telegraph explained that militants returning to Britain from Syria or similar countries would face 10 years in jail.

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