The U.K. government reminded police of their power to arrest people distributing terrorist literature, as security services try to identify the Briton who was filmed beheading American journalist James Foley.
Prime Minister David Cameron broke off his vacation to return to London to discuss the murder yesterday. He watched the video, which Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said was being studied by security services trying to identify the killer, in his Downing Street office. Cameron later said it “looks increasingly likely it is a British citizen.”
The Islamic State released the video of Foley’s beheading on Aug. 19, saying in an Internet posting that he was executed as a result of U.S. air strikes against the group in Iraq that began earlier this month. It is unclear when Foley was killed. IS threatened in the video to kill another U.S. reporter.
“We know far too many British citizens have traveled to Iraq and traveled to Syria to take part in extremism and violence,” Cameron said in televised remarks. “And what we must do is to redouble all our efforts to stop people going, to take away the passports of people contemplating travel, to arrest and prosecute those that take part in extremism and violence, to take extremist material off the Internet, and do everything we can to keep people safe.”
Hammond’s predecessor, William Hague, estimated in June that about 400 Britons were fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. In the first three months of 2014, 40 people were arrested in the U.K. in relation to the conflict.
The London-based Times and Guardian newspapers cited what they said were sources close to hostages freed by IS as saying the wanted man may be one of a group of British jihadists working as guards. One former hostage recognized the man’s voice as that of a guard known as John, the Times said.
In another development, London’s Metropolitan Police said late yesterday it charged 19-year-old Brustchom Ziamani from Camberwell in the south of the city with “engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts.”
Ziamani appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. Speaking only to confirm his name, and wearing a Call of Duty T-shirt, he was ordered to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court Sept. 12. He remains in custody.
The Met also issued a reminder that “viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material” such as the video of Foley’s killing could breach U.K. terror laws.
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