Jeremy Corbyn has said the Conservative Party is trying to smear him over the IS drone strike that reportedly killed Sally-Anne Jones after the Labour leader said the British IS recruiter should have faced trial.
Corbyn had said on Thursday that the woman dubbed the White Widow “ought to be put on trial” as she had “committed crimes” after it was reported she was killed in June, close to the border between Syria and Iraq, by a US Air Force strike.
The comments prompted Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who earlier all but confirmed she had been killed, to renew a Tory attack on Corbyn over national security, a hallmark of the election campaign.
“Protecting this country is the first duty of a Prime Minister,” said Fallon.
“Corbyn’s continued refusal to back drone strikes on terrorists who are actively plotting murder on our streets shows he is simply not fit to lead or keep us safe.”
But a spokesman for the Labour leader dismissed the charge, saying: “Conservative smears didn’t work in the general election and they won’t work now. As he has said repeatedly, as Prime Minister, Jeremy will do everything necessary and effective to keep our people safe.”
The Conservative line of attack has previously revolved around Corbyn’s personal support for unilateral disarmament of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, and refusing to say if he would fire Britain’s Trident missiles.
While the airstrike was US-led, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee is still likely to review the killing. A high legal bar would need to be passed to justify the assassination, and Jones would have to have been plotting an attack or threatening life. The UK government has characterised earlier drone strike killings as an act of self-defence under article 51 of the UN charter.
Speaking earlier, Fallon said: “I won’t comment on the specific strike reported today. However, I can confirm that if you are a British national in Iraq or Syria, and have chosen to fight for Daesh, an illegal organisation preparing and conspiring terrorist attacks on our streets, then you have made yourself a legitimate target and run the risk, every hour of every day, of being on the wrong end of an RAF or USAF missile.”
While the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office is not commenting, a Government source told HuffPost UK the minister’s words all but confirmed the reports.
Jones and her husband Junaid Hussain went to Syria in 2013 to join the so-called Islamic State, and had recruited Western girls to IS.
News of Jones’ death was not made public amid fears that her 12-year-old son Jojo may also have been killed, according to The Sun.