DS has no view on the legality issue but worry that without more resources for the RAF, extending ops into Syria could add to overstretch
British jihadist killed after plot to kill the Queen
David Cameron says an Isil jihadist was assassinated by an RAF drone in an attack he describes as a “new departure” for Britain in the fight against terrorists.
The Prime Minister told MPs that three jihadists had been killed in Syria
By Peter Dominiczak, Ben Farmer and Steven Swinford
8:43PM BST 07 Sep 2015
A British jihadist has been killed by UK forces in Syria after he directed a plot to kill the Queen, it emerged on Monday night.
In a move David Cameron said was “a new departure” for Britain, Reyaad Khan was last month assassinated in an RAF drone strike after security services uncovered his bid to stage a terror attack in the UK.
The Prime Minister said that it is the first time UK forces have directed a targeted attack against one of its own citizens when Britain is not at war.
It is also marks the first British military action in Syria and Mr Cameron made clear that UK forces are now prepared to carry out more strikes in Syria, Iraq and Libya against specific targets.
Downing Street denied the existence of a “kill list” of terrorists.
However, it has been made clear by Whitehall sources that British-born Isil fighters including Jihadi John, the terrorist responsible for executing westerners in Syria, are targets for UK forces.
The Prime Minister authorised the strike without the approval of Parliament but said that it did not require a vote because it was an act of “self-defence” for which there was a “clear legal basis”.
The announcement shifted the debate on the migrant crisis. Mr Cameron yesterday announced that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be relocated in Britain by 2020.
But the Prime minister has said that he believes action needs to be taken in Syria to prevent the further escalation of the crisis.
Announcing the strikes, Mr Cameron said: “My first duty as Prime Minister is to keep the British people safe. That is what I will always do.
“There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop them. This Government does not for one moment take these decisions lightly.
“But I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and have to explain why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done.”
Two other Isis fighters were killed in the attack on the Syrian city of Raqqa on 21 August. One of them, Ruhul Amin, 26, was also British, Mr Cameron said.
The Prime Minister said that a third Briton, Junaid Hussain, 21, was killed by a separate US airstrike.
Khan, 21, was targeted after it emerged he was leading a plot to attack the VJ Day commemoration services in London in August, government sources said
The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prime Minister were also at the event in central London.
It came as:
• The Prime Minister said that Britain will accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
• Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, warned that the families of those killed in the air strike could sue the government.
• Angela Merkel demanded that the rest of Europe “pulls its weight” as Germany continued to accept tens of thousands of migrants.
• Greece called for emergency assistance from the European Union as it warned that 20,000 migrants are now stranded on the island of Lesbos.
• Francois Hollande, the French president, told Mr Cameron not to “shirk” his responsibilities to migrants if he wants to successfully renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Brussels.
• Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, called on European leaders to stop accepting migrants and said that quotas are futile.
• Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leadership contender, said bombing Syria would “kill many people” and may not defeat Isil as he called for an international peace summit over the country’s future.
The announcement of the strike was made on the first day of the new Parliamentary session and comes amid speculation that Mr Cameron is preparing the ground for a military intervention in Syria.
The drone strike on Khan was approved by the Prime Minister “months ago” at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), sources said.
The request to authorise the attack came last month while Mr Cameron was on a visit in Norfolk.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, gave the go-ahead for the assassination at a meeting of the NSC on the Prime Minister’s behalf, Downing Street said.
Defence sources said that British spy planes were used to locate Khan before the fatal drone attack was authorised.
A Rivet Joint plane packed with sensitive electronic eavesdropping intelligence equipment has been flying over Syria from Cyprus since October.
GCHQ’s main effort this summer has been to sift and analyse traffic from Raqqa, the headquarters of Isil, and Khan’s position is understood to have been given away after his communications were intercepted.
Mr Cameron said that both Khan and Hussain had been plotting “to attack high profile public commemorations, including those taking place this Summer”.
Other ceremonies thought to have been threatened by the jihadists include the VE commemorations the day after the general election in May as well as Armed Forces Day in June.
“We should be under no illusion,” Mr Cameron said. “Their intention was the murder of British citizens.
“So on this occasion we ourselves took action.”
Khan, from Cardiff, was a straight A-student who became radicalised and fled to Syria where he joined Isil and regularly took to Twitter to boast of executing prisoners.
He featured in an Isil propaganda video alongside Ruhul Amin, who was killed alongside him.
Hussain, a British computer hacker, was a member of Isil’s so-called “cyber caliphate” and gained notoriety after allegedly obtaining the passwords to US Central Command’s Twitter and Youtube accounts
Mr Cameron faced anger from MPs who criticised him for not putting the air strikes in Syria to a vote in Parliament.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said he would seek the approval of MPs before authorising any military action in Syria.
However, he has made clear that he is prepared to authorise strikes without Parliamentary approval if Britain is under threat.
Mr Cameron said: “If there is a direct threat to the British people and we are able to stop it by taking immediate action then as Prime Minister I will always be prepared to take that action and that’s the
case whether the threat is emanating from Libya, Syria or from anywhere else.”
The Prime Minister said that attack had the approval of Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General.
Although Amin was not on the pre-approved target list, a Number 10 source described his death as a “proportional consequence” of the drone strike.
Mr Cameron said: “I am clear that the action we took was entirely lawful. The Attorney General was consulted and was clear there would be a clear legal basis for action in international law.
“We were exercising the UK’s inherent right to self-defence.”
Harriet Harman, Labour’s interim leader, called for “independent scrutiny” of the attack and called on the Government to publish its legal advice.
David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, told the BBC that there should be a formal check on such decisions – suggesting they otherwise amounted to an “extra-judicial execution”.