Anti-terror chief backs Begum exclusion

The UK’s top anti-terror officer Neil Basu has backed the government’s decision to keep Shamima Begum out of Britain in a new interview with the Evening Standard.

Discussing “a whole series of problems in deradicalisation, trauma management, and risk assessment and risk management” with respect to returning militants, Basu declared that the government’s policy of “strategic distance… from my point of view as head of counter-terrorism policing is the right one.”

It came following confirmation from Basu that if Begum were to be granted a right to return to the UK as a result of ongoing action in the Supreme Court, she would be viewed as a terror threat and arrested.

“She’s the big exemplar of the problem we have of the assessment of threat and risk. She’s also someone who would expect to be arrested and investigated for her activity and nobody who has travelled there who has said the things publicly that she’s said should be under any illusion.”

Begum is currently challenging the decision to strip her British citizenship, a decision taken by Sajid Javid early last year.

She left Britain in 2015 with two other schoolgirls to join the Islamic State. When asked in an interview with Sky News if she was aware of beheadings conducted by IS, Begum replied: “Yeah, I knew about those things and I was okay with it… From what I heard, Islamically that is allowed. So I was okay with it.”

In the same interview, she pleaded with the public for sympathy. “I think a lot of people should have, like, sympathy towards me for everything I’ve been through.”

But her pleas appear to have been futile, with a poll released the same day highlighting 78% of the country supporting the decision to strip her citizenship.

Very little has changed in the months since, with a YouGov poll last month showing that 70% of respondents did not think she should be allowed to return.

In tune with the public mood and referring to the problems the police already face with home-grown terror threats, counter-terror chief Basu said: “I don’t need to import a greater problem.”