The parents, brothers and sister of a British ISIS fighter who was killed in Syria were arrested by counter-terrorism police in Portsmouth yesterday.
Police raided the family home of Ifthekar Jaman, 23, in Southsea, Portsmouth, and arrested his brothers, Tuhim, 26, and Mustakim, 23, on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism in relation to Syria.
The men’s father, Enu Miah, 57, was arrested on suspicion of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts and arranging availability of money and property for use in terrorism. His wife, Hena Choudhury, 48, was held on suspicion of failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism. Both were later released on bail.
Ifthekar Jaman, who was killed fighting with ISIS in December last year, allegedly encouraged others to take up arms against the Assad regime. He was killed in battle shortly after he had given an interview to BBC Newsnight.
Jaman was the first of a group of young men from Portsmouth to travel to Syria last year. One of the men – Mashadur Choudhury – returned and was the first Briton to be convicted of Syria-related terror offences earlier this year. Another, Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, was also killed in Syria.
The four members of the Jaman family were held as part of an operation by the south-east counter-terrorism unit that also saw the arrest of a 23-year-old woman from Farnborough, and Ifthekar’s sister Tammanah Shaharin, 29, from Greenwich, South London, on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism.
Nationwide “anti-terror raids”
The operation was not regarded as being as “serious” as last week’s arrests in London over an alleged terrorist attack plot.
Thames Valley police said yesterday’s arrests were linked to suspected terrorist activity around “conflicts overseas” and not to any immediate threat to the UK. A spokesman later confirmed that the arrests were related to Syria.
Hampshire police said the arrests were part of a nationwide operation. “This is an issue across the country and not specific to any one region or area,” it said in a statement.
There have been 14 arrests under counter-terrorism powers in the last week. Three men were detained by counter-terrorism police in central London on Monday and five men were detained last week by detectives investigating a potential plot to attack Britain.
Most of the work of counter-terrorism investigators at present is the apparent threat posed by ISIS, which has taken over large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
Police were standing guard outside the Jaman family home in Portsmouth.
The door window was smashed and police tape surrounded the property. Officers arrived at the scene with large evidence bags.
The property had been raided in April this year.
Portsmouth under pressure
Ifthekar Jaman is the most prolific British fighter to have joined ISIS and subsequently die in Syria. He had a considerable following on social media, and was even praised by his non-Muslim work colleagues who held a vigil outside Portsmouth Jamia Mosque in his memory.
Media attention and police pressure had remained on Portsmouth when a group calling itself the “Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys” left the UK for Syria via Turkey in October last year.
The group’s members were identified by the police as Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, Mashadur Choudhury, 31, Assad Uzzaman, 25, Mehdi Hassan, 19, and Mamunur Roshid, all from Portsmouth.
British security services re-interviewed Mashadur Choudhury, as it was believed that he may have came in contact with the suspected killer of US journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker, David Haines.
Deputy Editor of 5Pillarz, Dilly Hussain, spoke to members of the Bangladeshi community in Portsmouth regarding the arrests of the Jaman family.
A relative who wanted to remain anonymous said: “It’s no surprise that their house was raided. Ever since the death of Ifthekar, the family has been constantly harassed and under surveillance by counter-terrorism officers.
“It’s as if the family is being targeted and criminalised for the actions of their son. They’ve hardly had the time to grieve for Ifthekar.”
Another close family friend said: “Ifthekar was seen as the ringleader who influenced the other men to leave for Syria and as a result of that his family have been isolated from the community. However, that doesn’t mean his family, especially his parents who are respectable members of the community should pay for this.
“Many Muslims don’t agree with young British men leaving to fight jihad in Syria but that doesn’t mean we are not hurt and affected by these raids. This is the second raid that the Jaman family have faced, clearly the authorities want to make an example of anyone who supports the revolution in Syria.”
Dilly Hussain contacted Portsmouth Jamia Mosque for their thoughts on the arrests but they refused to comment.