Two British citizens who were fighting for so-called Islamic State (IS) were killed in an RAF drone strike in Syria which was carried out without parliamentary approval, prime minister David Cameron has said.
A third militant was also killed in the August 21 strike on a car in ’IS’ stronghold Raqqa, 160km east of Aleppo, in what Cameron described as an “act of self-defence” against the primary British target who was planning “specific and barbaric” terrorist attacks in his homeland.
No civilians were killed and the strike was not carried out as part of coalition bombing operations against IS.
The strike was “entirely lawful” and was approved by the attorney general, Cameron insisted.
In a statement to parliament, 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.
Two British ISIS fighters killed in RAF drone strike in Syria: Victims were first Britons to be targeted and killed … http://t.co/KbSAS2QeD1— El Reg Security News (@regsecurity) September 7, 2015
“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 to the House why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done.
“That is why I believe our approach is right and I commend this statement to the House.”
Cameron said that, in recent weeks, it had been reported that two British ’IS’ fighters who had been plotting attacks in the UK had been killed in airstrikes.
“Both Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting Isil sympathisers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain, such as plots to attack high profile public commemorations, including those taking place this summer,” said Cameron.
“We should be under no illusion. Their intention was the murder of British citizens. So on this occasion we ourselves took action.”
“Today, I can inform the House that, in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning, Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on August 21 by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqa in Syria.
“In addition to Reyaad Khan who was the target of the strike, two IS associates were also killed, one of whom, Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national.
“They were IS fighters and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties.
“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.”
Cameron said Hussain was killed in an American air strike in Raqqa on August 24.
“With these issues of national security and with current prosecutions ongoing, the House will appreciate that there are limits on the details I can provide,” he said, adding that the UK’s intelligence agencies had identified the direct threat from Khan.
“At a meeting of the most senior members of the National Security Council, we agreed that should the right opportunity arise, then the military should take action,” he said.
“The strike was conducted according to specific military rules of engagement, which always comply with international law and the principles of proportionality and military necessity... The military assessed the target location and chose the optimum time to minimise the risk of civilian casualties.”
Cameron said the strike was not part of coalition action against IS in Syria.
“I believe there is a strong case for the UK taking part in air strikes as part of the international coalition to target ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq,” he told the Commons.
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