Two British ISIS fighters were killed by an RAF drone strike in the first confirmed British airstrike in Syria, David Cameron has said.
Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan was targeted in Raqqa on 21 August and died alongside fellow Briton Ruhul Amin and another fighter, the PM told MPs.
Khan, 21, had been plotting “barbaric” attacks at UK public events, he said. The “act of self defence” was lawful, Mr Cameron said, despite MPs previously ruling out UK military action in Syria.
Khan was killed in a “precision strike” by a remotely piloted aircraft, “after meticulous planning”, while he was travelling in a vehicle, the prime minister said.
The attorney general had been consulted and agreed there was a “clear legal basis” for it, Mr Cameron added.
Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman urged the government to publish the legal advice.
Two years ago MPs rejected possible UK military action in Syria, but last September approved British participation in air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq only.
However, officials said the UK would “act immediately [in Syria] and explain to Parliament afterwards” if there was “a critical British national interest at stake”.
In his statement to the Commons, Mr Cameron said: “My first duty as prime minister is to keep the British people safe. There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him.
“This government does not for one moment take these decisions lightly. But I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and have to explain to the House why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done.”
Another British national, Junaid Hussain, from Birmingham, was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on 24 August, the prime minister confirmed.
CAGE condemns killings
Meanwhile, advocacy group CAGE has condemned what it calls “the extrajudicial killing of Britons Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin.”
In a statement CAGE said: “The UK has joined the US in setting a dangerous international precedent in which a national government acts as judge, jury and executioner on a global scale.”
Ibrahim Mohamoud, Communications Officer at CAGE, added: “The UK government has not released a legal justification for the killing of two British nationals in Syria. This may violate safeguards put in place to assess how soon someone is about to make an attack. We question whether Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin posed a ‘continued imminent threat.’
“Extra-judicial killing is the ultimate violation of due process since the victim is not granted a fair trial, and can never seek accountability. The admission by the British government that it killed two of its own, raises crucial questions:
1. Does the British government possess a ‘kill list’?
2. What is the threshold for killing a British national on foreign soil without due process?
3. Is secret evidence now sufficient to kill a misguided individual whose capabilities are unknown?
“Based on the flawed logic presented by David Cameron, Vladimir Putin’s alleged extrajudicial killing Alexander Litvinenko in London was justified. Such double standards speak of hypocrisy and set a dangerous standard for the world.”