Bethnal Green IS teenager faces a police interview if she returns home from Syria
- Credit: MPS
A teenager from Bethnal Green who fled to Syria as a schoolgirl and became a ‘Jihadi bride’ may be interviewed by police if she gets her wish and returns home.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said 19-year-old Shamima Begum could expect to be “spoken to” if she comes back to Britain.
Shamima left the country in 2015 to travel to Syria to support IS at the age of 15, but now wishes to return home for the sake of her third child, who was born at the weekend.
Her two older children have died.
Today Ms Dick said: “If she does, under whatever circumstances, arrive at our borders, somebody in her type of circumstances could expect, of course, to be spoken to and, if there is the appropriate necessity, to be potentially arrested and certainly investigated.
“If that results in sufficient evidence for a prosecution then it will result in sufficient evidence for a prosecution.
“The officers will deal with whatever they are confronted with.”
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There are currently plans to change the law to make travelling to certain terror hotspots a criminal offence, but this would not apply retrospectively to Ms Begum.
Yesterday it was reported that Shamima said the deaths of 22 innocent people in the terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in 2017 were akin to the “women and children” being bombed in IS territory in Baghuz.
She said: “I do feel that it’s wrong that innocent people did get killed. It’s one thing to kill a soldier that is fighting you, it’s self-defence, but to kill the people like women and children...
“Just people like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly, the bombings. It’s a two-way thing really.
“Because women and children are being killed back in the Islamic State right now and it’s kind of retaliation. Like, their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought ‘OK, that is a fair justification’.”
Around 425 suspected jihadi fighters are thought to have returned to the UK from Syria so far.
Ms Dick said: “This case and other cases that are talked about in the same sentences just really underline how awful the circumstances are and have been in Syria and just how dangerous it has been, and would continue to be, for anybody from this country to think of travelling there - dangerous physically and dangerous legally.
“If there is insufficient evidence for a prosecution it is our job to look at the threat they pose if they are returning from Syria and we do that with every single person who comes back from Syria and then manage the risk with colleagues in the (security and intelligence) agencies.”
In 2015, when Ms Begum had just left the UK, then chief of counter-terror policing Sir Mark Rowley suggested that she might be treated as a victim of grooming.
But on Tuesday, Ms Dick said: “I’ve read very carefully what the Assistant Commissioner and the Commissioner said, it was very carefully caveated on the basis of what was known then. We’re a long way down the road since then.”
Talking generally about the number of returnees from Syria, she said that some who cannot be prosecuted may “still require a considerable amount of monitoring”.
“That puts a lot of pressure on resources. But it’s very hard to know the scale of this right now - how many people will come back, and what threat they may pose.”