New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
7 September 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 8:16am

David Cameron reveals that an RAF drone killed a British jihadist in Syria

The Prime Minister told Parliament that a drone strike piloted by the RAF was authorised in Syria against a UK-born Isis fighter.

By Anoosh Chakelian

David Cameron has revealed to the House of Commons that a drone piloted by the RAF was authorised to target and kill a UK-born Isis fighter in Syria. 

He told MPs that the decision was an “act of self-defence”, taken by the government following legal advice. He claimed it was deemed a proportionate response considering the “barbaric attacks against the West” being planned by the target, Reyaad Khan. Khan was killed alongside two fellow fighters, one of whom was also a British national, called Ruhul Amin.

Khan’s mother was filmed begging him to come home in June last year:

The attack, described as a “precision air strike”, took place on 21 August while Khan was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria. Cameron informed Parliament that there were no civilian casualties.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Here’s some of what he said:

We were exercising the UK’s inherent right to self-defence. There was clear evidence of the individuals in question planning and directing armed attacks against the UK. These were part of a series of actual and foiled attempts to attack the UK and our allies. And in the prevailing circumstances in Syria, the airstrike was the only feasible means of effectively disrupting the attacks planned and directed by this individual.

So it was necessary and proportionate for the individual self-defence of the UK . . . 

This was a sensitive operation to prevent a very real threat to our country. And I have come to the House today to explain in detail what has happened and to answer questions about it.

Parliament has only so far given the government permission to join in coalition air strikes in Iraq, for which it voted last year. The Prime Minister has since announced that he will call a separate vote in the Commons if the government plans to partake in air strikes against Isis in Syria.

Therefore the government’s admission that it has authorised a drone attack piloted by the RAF in Syria without informing Parliament has caused concern among other politicians. Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader, questioned whether there were no other means of stopping Khan, and asked Cameron if this was an isolated action and whether there would be more to come. She also asked why the Attorney General, who provided the advice on the attack, only said there was a “legal basis”, and stopped short at authorising the specific operation.

Angus Robertson, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, criticised Cameron for not sharing this information regarding national security with the SNP, as he had briefed Labour before the announcement (Harman was told about the attack in the morning, ahead of Cameron’s announcement). Robertson called this “unacceptable”.

Cameron said there was “no alternative” but to target Khan, as “there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home”:

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.

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 21st August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria.

Khan was a 21-year-old from Cardiff who first appeared in an Isis propaganda video last June, having travelled to Syria. Amin was born in Bangladesh, but grew up in Aberdeen.

Junaid Hussain, an associate of Khan who was also a British national who had joined Isis, was killed in an American drone strike in Raqqah three days later.

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy