UK

British Army Veteran Amongst Fighters Joining Kurds To Fight Islamic State In Syria

23/11/2014 14:38 GMT | Updated 24/11/2014 20:59 GMT

A British army veteran is one of several Britons who has travelled to join Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State, according to Facebook posts.

The Observer reported that one of the growing number of Europeans in Syria fighting with the Kurdish YPG forces is a former Afghanistan infantryman with the British army, James Hughes from Reading.

He is believed to be in Rojava, the Kurdish area of northern Syria where forces are attempting to save the beleaguered city of Kobani from falling into jihadist hands.

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A picture posted on the Facebook page of one of the recruits

He is also believed to be with his friend, Jamie Read, from Newmains in Lanarkshire, whose Facebook page says he trained with the French army.

The Facebook page 'Lions of Rojava', which is run by an American fighter called Jordan Matson, has posted numerous pictures of Europeans including Britons who it claims are in Syria fighting IS. It has a Skype address and actively encourages recruits to come to fight for the cause.

Many people have contacted the page via its Facebook wall asking how to come out and fight. One posted: "Hi I'm an infantryman from arizona. How do I take steps to go to syria to go fight again. I've already been to Afghanistan twice. Someone please message me about how the process is to g ok fight the enemy again."

Read posted on his own page earlier this month: "Well boys and girls.... It looks like all the hard work has payed off I got my good news, most of you know what i'm doing for those that don't you will have to wait haha can't really say on here but all I can say is this time next week i will be living the dream."

His following post was him in combat fatigues posing with guns, with messages from friends telling him to stay safe:

Matson has been in a Facebook conversation with Read, saying: "I was with 'The Beard' for his cherry being popped at being shot at. It was interesting. Its always interesting the first time you have a bullet fly past your head."

Read replied: "Cheers bro would be lost with out you."

Both men are believed to be fighting with the YPG, the Kurdish forces who are being armed by coalition forces.

The Metropolitan Police are also investigating the disappearance of a 17-year-old Haringey girl, of Kurdish background, who is believed to be making her way to Syria, the first known case of a female fighter heading to join the Kurdish forces.

A number of Dutch bikers from the 'No Surrender' gang are also said to be fighting the advancing radical jihadists near Mosul, Iraq.

No Surrender's president, Klaas Otto, told Dutch TV station NOS that three members from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda were currently in Northern Iraq.

A Home Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK that it advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq.

"Even people travelling for well-intentioned humanitarian reasons are exposing themselves to serious risk," she said. "The best way to help the people of these countries is to donate to registered charities that have ongoing relief operations.”

There are thought to be around 600 Brits currently fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but there is no data held on the numbers who have gone to fight for the Kurds.

Police have become increasingly concerned about young people traveling to fight in Syria and becoming radicalised by the Islamic State group. The fear is that they will return and wage attacks at home.

Authorities are preparing for a nationwide terrorism awareness campaign in which the police will attempt to build grass-roots support in a bid to prevent attacks. Briefings at some 80 venues such as schools, airports and shopping centers are planned.

The Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said police are increasingly worried about the possibility of a "lone wolf" attack and that thwarting such attacks is putting pressure on resources because police need to move fast.

"It doesn't take an awful lot of organising, doesn't take too many to conspire together, there's no real complexity to it," he said. "What that means is we have got a very short time to interdict, to actually intervene and make sure that these people don't get away with it. So, that is causing real pressure on us in terms of resources."

Hogan-Howe's comments came as Home Secretary Theresa May said she would propose a bill in the House of Commons this week forcing Internet firms to retain data linking Internet Protocol or IP addresses to individual users.

May said the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill would boost national security.