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British special forces in Iraq presented with a 'kill or capture' list of UK nationals

Senior defence officials warn that, unless stopped, returning British IS members could pose a major threat to the UK
People wait to board a military truck at a Iraqi special forces checkpoint in Kokjali (Reuters)

British special forces in Iraq have been given a “kill or capture” list of up to 200 UK citizens who have joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq.

According to sources speaking to the Sunday Times, the Special Air Service (SAS) is under orders to target British citizens using information supplied by British intelligence agencies.

Those not killed are to be handed to the Iraqi security services where they risk facing the death penalty for IS membership, which is likely to prove controversial as capital punishment is outlawed in the UK.

“A kill list has been drawn up containing the names of hundreds of very bad people,” said a senior defence source, speaking to the Sunday Times. 

“A lot of them are from the UK. The hunt is now on for British Islamists who have effectively gone off-grid.

“This is a multinational special forces operation. The SAS have their own part of the plan, and they will be going after British nationals. This is a kill or capture mission, and it has already begun."

The source said they did not have exact figures of UK citizens in Iraq and could not confirm the identities of those involved.

“That’s the challenge we face. There is a lot of international co-operation because it’s regarded as a global problem.”

Fears have been raised by the British intelligence services that, with the impending fall of Mosul and the IS "capital" Raqqa in Syria, British IS members could flee these strongholds and return to the UK and create militant cells.

Senior sources warned that IS militants who survived the operations against Mosul and Raqqa would be "hardened, highly radicalised fighters" and potentially posed the greatest ever "urban terrorist threat to the UK".

The UK Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the report.

The ministry claimed last month that it had killed more than 1,700 IS militants in Iraq and Syria via air strikes without incurring any civilian casualties.

"Daesh is being defeated," said UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, using another term for IS.

"It is being driven back. It now occupies less than 10 percent of Iraqi territory."

However, Chris Woods, director of the Airwars monitoring group, said that a scenario in which no civilians had been killed in UK air strikes would be "unprecedented".

"Where we have more concern with the MoD is its assertion, an aggressive assertion at times, that they have killed no civilians in the war in Iraq and Syria despite more than 1,000 air strikes," he said, according to the Mail Online.

"That would be unprecedented in the history of warfare."

Airwars says hundreds of civilians have been killed by US-led forces in Iraq, although the US says the figure is much lower, claiming in July only 55 civilians had died in the first two years of the anti-IS campaign.

More than 300 civilians have been killed in Syria by US-led coalition air strikes, according to a report by Amnesty International released late last month. The UK joined in operations targeting IS forces in Syria in December 2015.

The UK was involved in strikes against the Syrian army in September, which killed more than 60 troops during a battle against Islamic State in Deir Ezzor, despite the UK and allies allegedly only targeting IS and al-Qaeda aligned forces in Syria.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.