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Britain kills two of its own citizens in Syrian drone strike

David Cameron said the men planned to murder other Britons.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID Cameron has revealed that British forces used a drone strike over Syria in August to kill two British Islamic State (IS) fighters.

_85228591_hi024059366 Junaid Hussain

A third Briton was killed in a separate US air strike last month.

He told the British parliament the attack was legally justified because the militants were plotting lethal attacks against Britain and the fighters could not be eliminated any other way.

“There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop them,” Cameron said, adding that the decision to launch the attack hadn’t been taken lightly.

The prime minister said the deadly Royal Air Force strike was permissible because of Britain’s intrinsic right to self-defence and had been approved by the attorney general.

david David Cameron Source: PA

The attack – which took place on 21 August on a car in the Syrian city of Raqqa, an IS stronghold – represents an escalation for Britain, which had not participated in military actions in Syria. Cameron said the threat made action mandatory.

Under questioning by Labour Party interim leader Harriet Harmon, the prime minister said the attack marked the first instance in modern times that a British asset has been used to conduct a strike in a country where Britain was not involved in a war.

Plan to murder other Britons

Cameron said that after “meticulous planning” British nationals Reyaad Khan, from Cardiff in Wales, and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, were killed along with another IS militant who was not identified.

Khan had taken part in an IS recruiting video.

Cameron said Britain took action after determining that Khan and another Briton identified as Junaid Hussain were “British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting Isil (IS) sympathizers 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”.

He said it was their intention to murder British citizens.

Hussain, from Birmingham, was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on 24 August, the prime minister confirmed.

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The BBC reports that Hussain referred to himself as Abu Hussain Al Britani and was described as a “top cyber jihadist”.

The prime minister said the threat from IS fighters was more acute than ever before and that the drone attack was the only “feasible means” of dealing with the danger in this case.

No civilians were killed in the strike, which was carried out independent of coalition military activity taking place in the region, he said.

Parliament was not consulted in advance. Cameron said the government reserves the right to take future action without prior approval when there is a “critical” British interest at stake or when a “humanitarian catastrophe” is imminent and can be averted.

Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK), said the British Government must disclose the legal basis for killing the men.

“These strikes set a dangerous precedent for UK Government activity. The UK Government can now kill at will with no oversight. If the only oversight of these actions is confidential internal government legal advice that is no oversight at all. It is imperative that the UK Government acts with transparency,” Ahmed said.

- with reporting by Órla Ryan

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