A rebel fighter fires his gun against a Syrian government troop position in Aleppo, on October 21, 2012
A rebel fighter fires his gun against a Syrian government troop position in Aleppo, on October 21, 2012 © Achilleas Zavallis - AFP/File
A rebel fighter fires his gun against a Syrian government troop position in Aleppo, on October 21, 2012
AFP
Last updated: November 21, 2013

Four Britons die fighting in Syria

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Four British men have been killed fighting alongside Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria, it was reported Thursday, as fears rise of the growing threat from jihadists returning from the war.

Three of the men, all thought to be from London, were killed in August as their group attacked forces loyal to President Bashir al-Assad near Aleppo, according to The Times.

The fourth man was shot two weeks later while trying to ambush an enemy position.

The Times said they were part of a ten-strong group of British jihadists who fought together and joined up with 20 other Britons to fight alongside the Al-Nusra Front, which is allied to Al-Qaeda.

Britain's intelligence agency MI5 estimates that between 200 and 300 young Britons have travelled to fight in Syria, and are concerned they will recruit new converts to their cause, or launch attacks at home.

A security source told The Times: "Some of those who went out in the early stages of the conflict have been able to return to Britain, radicalise others, and go back to Syria with others in tow."

The Times named one of the men killed as Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove in west London, whom it said died attempting to ambush pro-Assad forces.

He used the name "Abu Khalid" and photographs of him in Syria show him in paramilitary uniform and brandishing an AK-47 rifle.

The Times said El-Araj was the son of an antiques dealer and had shown extremist leanings before going to Syria.

In 2010 he was jailed for 18 months by a British court after being arrested during a violent protest outside the Israeli embassy in London.

He had fought in Syria alongside the three other men who were killed by a shell two weeks earlier.

The dead include a man using the name "Abu Hujama al-Britani", The Times reported.

In one photograph he is seen clad in fatigues and clutching an AK-47 assault rifle, with the caption "ISIS shahid from West London", referring to a martyr from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), closely allied to Al-Qaeda.

A comment accompanying the photograph says that he is from Hounslow in west London.

Police arrested two men who had recently returned from Syria in central London last month. They are allegedly linked to a terror plot.

Earlier this month, charges were dropped against two British men, including a doctor, accused of being part of a jihadist group which kidnapped British photographer John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are looking into reports that a number of British nationals have been killed in Syria."

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