UK seeks to expand terrorism laws to target British fighters

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Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants to give U.K. police the power to seize the passports of Islamist fighters bound for Iraq and Syria.

"We will introduce specific and targeted legislation ... providing the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border during which time they will be able to investigate the individual concerned," Cameron told British Parliament today.

His comments, which come just days after Britain raised its terrorism threat level to "severe" from "substantial," come amid reports of radicalized Europeans, including about 500 Britons, fighting alongside militants of the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

The BBC has rounded up some of Cameron's proposals:

  • Legislation will be drawn up to give the police new statutory powers to confiscate the passports of suspect terrorists at UK borders
  • The UK will challenge any attempt by the courts to water down these powers
  • Plans to block suspected British terrorists from returning to the UK will be drawn up on a "cross-party basis"
  • Terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) will be extended, to include the power to relocate suspects
  • Terrorists will be required to undergo de-radicalisation programmes
  • "Airlines will be forced to hand over more information about passengers travelling to and from conflict zones.

Meanwhile in Washington, President Obama told Congress that he had authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq in support of an "operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to the town of [Amerli], where thousands of Shia Turkomen have been cut off from receiving food, water and medical supplies for two months by ISIL."

ISIL is another name for the Islamic State, which is also sometimes referred to as ISIS.

"The United States Air Force delivered aid to the town of [Amerli] alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom, who also dropped much needed supplies," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

As NPR's Peter Kenyon told our Newscast unit this morning, the operation in Amirli brought together unusual allies.

"Iraqi army units and Shiite militiamen advanced on Amerli from one direction, while Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved in from another," he said.

They were given U.S. and allied air cover.

As The New York Times points out, the operation "appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias."

At a news conference last week, Obama said the Islamic State was continuing to lose arms and equipment because of targeted U.S. strikes against its members in Iraq. But he also acknowledged that the U.S. doesn't "have a strategy yet" to deal with the Islamic State in Syria, where it has also made gains.

The group controls vast swaths of territory across both countries, and in its brutal campaign has carried out mass executions and targeted non-Muslims, including Christians and members of the tiny Yazidi community.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, approved Iraq's request into an investigation into crimes against civilians by the Islamic State.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

 

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