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.
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.