Met Chief told LBC Shamima Begum should not return to UK - but ex-MI6 chief claims she poses 'bigger risk' in Syria

25 November 2022, 09:39 | Updated: 25 November 2022, 09:43

Back in 2021, Sir Mark Rowley, then former head of UK counter-terrorism policing, told LBC before he became Met Chief, that he backed the decision to keep her out, pointing to intelligence at odds with her account.
Back in 2021, Sir Mark Rowley, then former head of UK counter-terrorism policing, told LBC before he became Met Chief, that he backed the decision to keep her out, pointing to intelligence at odds with her account. . Picture: ITV / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

A former MI6 chief has said that 'Isis bride' Shemima Begum poses a greater danger to national security if left in Syria.

The comments come after Sir Mark Rowley, then former head of UK counter-terrorism policing, told LBC before he became Met Chief, that he backed the decision to keep her out, pointing to intelligence at odds with her account.

Begum, 23, fled London to join Isis when she was schoolgirl aged 15 in 2015 and is now challenging the decision to strip her British citizenship back in 2019.

She claims that she was trafficked by ISIS to Syria for sexual exploitation and says MI5 was wrong to conclude she would be a threat to the public if allowed to return.

Former MI6 chief Richard Barrett has given evidence at Begum's appeal, and wrote in a report prepared for her legal team: “From a national security perspective, refusing to repatriate individuals who now find themselves in camps in Syria is likely to be significantly more dangerous in the medium to long term than repatriating them and subjecting them to prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration.”

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The report suggested that detainees in camps, such as Begum, that remain detained without charge will only become more resentful towards Britain, “suffering from malnutrition and lack of health services, becoming further psychologically damaged each day”, The Telegraph reported.

Last year Sir Mark Rowley said intelligence seen by the then Home Secretary "painted a different picture" as to the degree of her involvement and it was right she was kept out of the country.

Sir Mark was named Met Police commissioner in July this year.
Sir Mark was named Met Police commissioner in July this year. Picture: Alamy

Back in September 2021, Sir Mark told LBC: "I suppose the thing that strikes you is: is this honest repentance, or is this a sort of machiavellian chameleon attempt to try and come back to this country because it would be more convenience for her?

"And I'm struck... we've had attacks in the UK and in New Zealand where people have been released from prison, and then managed to con the authorities that they're reformed characters, and I think we should highly sceptical about this.

He said it was obvious from what then Home Secretary Sajid Javid - who made the decision - said, that she was "not telling the whole truth".

Undated file photo of Shamima Begum.
Undated file photo of Shamima Begum. Picture: Alamy

He continued: "There was intelligence in front of him that painted a very different picture to the degree of her involvement to what she's pretending now.

Asked if he'd seen the intelligence himself, Sir Mark chuckled: "I saw lots of things in my role that I'm sort of not allowed to talk about."

Sir Mark said at the time completely agreed with the decision to remove her British citizenship.

Begum's appeal concludes today.

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