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A group of disillusioned British jihadists who wanted to return home after fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been taken prisoner by their militant commanders.
The men were stripped of their weapons and marched to a punishment centre in the militant-held city of Raqqa in Syria, according to reports.
The five Britons were accompanied by three Frenchmen, two Germans and two Belgians. They had complained that they were spending their time fighting other rebel forces instead of the government of Bashar al-Assad and were concerned that they were killing fellow Muslims.
The men were rounded up after apparently delaying returning to Britain for fear that they would be arrested on arrival.
But security sources say the new development shows that defectors cannot afford to try to bargain with British authorities and should just ‘drop their weapons and leave’.
Until now, IS is thought to have operated an open door policy which has allowed around 250 Britons to return but the start of US air attacks has made militant commanders paranoid that spies could direct attacks.
It means that the formerly welcoming atmosphere for Western militants has now changed to suspicion as the terrorist group begins to turn on its own fighters, according to one security source.
The source said the round-up of Westerners is a new development and it is ‘impossible to predict the outcome’. Haras Rafiq, of the counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, whose members include former fighters, said: ‘It is very dangerous to expose your identity if you want to come back in case IS find out who you are. Anyone who wants to leave, should just leave.’
He said the authorities should still arrest those who have committed crimes abroad, but there also needed to be an option to help reintegrate any who are able to demonstrate that they have ‘genuinely changed’.
It comes after a group of four Britons nick-named ‘the Beatles’ are thought to have become so integrated with IS that one appeared in videos beheading US hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
IS has spent much of its time carving out a caliphate straddling the border of Syria and Iraq, rather than fighting Assad’s forces. More than 500 Britons have travelled over to join the guerrilla group and around half are thought to have returned, 40 of whom were arrested. About 20 Britons are believed to have been killed in the civil war in Syria.
Islamic State extremists have released a video showing the beheading of British captive David Haines.
The father-of-two, an aid worker, was abducted by militants in Syria last year and appeared at the end of a video showing the beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff earlier this month.
The Foreign Office was working urgently tonight to verify the contents of the video, in which the hostage says he holds David Cameron and Britain's foreign policy responsible for his own execution.
The Prime Minister said: 'The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.
'We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.'
Mr Cameron has returned to his residence at Downing Street and is expected to chair a meeting of the government's emergency response team in the morning.
In the video, titled A Message to the Allies of America, the extremists also threaten to execute another Briton who is paraded before the camera.
The video begins with recent news footage of Prime Minister David Cameron discussing Britain's foreign policy towards Islamic State. It then cuts to the man kneeling in the video, who says: 'My name is David Cawthorne Haines. I would like to declare that I hold you David Cameron entirely responsible for my execution.
'You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend amongst our British Prime Minsters who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans.
'Unfortunately it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament's selfish decisions.'
The Islamic State militant, who has a British accent, adds: 'This British man has to the pay the price for your promise Cameron to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State.
'Ironically he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms. 'Your evil alliance with America which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the Haditha Dam will only accelerate your destruction, and playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinnable war.'
The footage then shows what is believed to be the body of Mr Haines.
Another hostage, believed to be British, is then paraded.
The militant adds: 'If you, Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State then you like your master Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands.'
Before Mr Cameron's apparent confirmation of the murder, the Foreign Office said it was 'working urgently to verify' the video, which was removed from Youtube within minutes.
A spokesman said: 'If true this is another disgusting murder. We are offering the family the family every support possible. They ask to be left alone at this time.'
A statement on Youtube said the video had been removed 'as a violation of YouTube's policy on shocking and disgusting content.'
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: 'I am sickened at the disgusting, barbaric killing of David Haines.
'He was somebody whose only purpose was to help innocent people, themselves victims of conflict.'
'That Isil (IS) would choose to kill him says everything about their warped logic and murderous ways.
'Acts like this will not weaken but strengthen the resolve of Britain and the international community to defeat Isil and their ideology. 'My deepest condolences and thoughts are with his family as they cope with this terrible crime. And the hearts of the British people will go out to them.'
Militants from IS have beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, posting the evidence online in gruesome videos featuring a masked jihadist with a British accent. In the video showing Mr Foley's killing, Mr Sotloff was paraded before the camera. Then, in the video which showed the murder of Mr Sotloff, Mr Haines was paraded in the same way.
The latest video was released hours after Mr Haines' family made a direct plea to his captors to contact them.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office released the statement late on Friday night after saying the extremists had not responded to any such attempts so far.
The Beatles existed in a turbulent time in world history, during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement and men wearing their hair long. And they took stands on all of these things.
So, the frustration likely felt by its two surviving members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, at the recent news that Islamic State of Islam and al-Sham (ISIS) jihadists have been given Beatles nicknames based on their accents is completely understandable.
Starr has now spoken up about the misappropriation of their first names, and he isn’t happy.
“It’s bulls**t,” Starr said to the London Evening Standard. “What they are doing out there is against everything The Beatles stood for… If we stood for anything we never stood for that.”
The jihadists, named after the Beatles by news media, came into the news more recently after the beheadings of two American journalists, first James Foley and then Steven Sotloff, which surfaced in videos posted to the Internet.
The member of the group that purportedly killed Foley was known as Jihadi John, with the others given the names Ringo and George due to their British accents. It is also thought that Jihadi John was the executioner in the video of Sotloff’s killing.