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Ex-Army Chief: Drone Strike May Not Be ‘Right’

A former head of the British Army has questioned whether an RAF drone strike in Syria that killed two British IS fighters was “right” without MPs’ backing. The raid specifically targeted Reyaad Khan, from Cardiff, because he was apparently involved in orchestrating plots to attack the UK. Khan was killed along with fellow militant Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, who was in the same vehicle. No civilians died.

David Cameron said the attack was carried out with the approval of the Attorney General, but without parliamentary backing. Two years ago, MPs voted against British Armyrats © military action in Syria.

Ex-Army Chief: Drone Strike May Not Be 'Right'

Ex-Army Chief: Drone Strike May Not Be 'Right'

Play video “Drone Kills Two British IS Fighters”

The Prime Minister told the Commons on Monday that the 21 August strike was “necessary and proportionate”, adding it was an act of self-defence and “entirely lawful”. Khan was alleged to have been involved in terror plots against the UK, including a plan – revealed in a Sky News investigation[1] – to target August’s VJ Day celebrations in central London.

When asked about the UK airstrike, General Lord Dannatt told Sky News that “by the letter of what parliament has authorised that may well not be right”. He said: “I’m accepting that the British parliament has not authorised action from the air over Syria at the present time.

“For all I know British drones have been operating in the airspace but gathering intelligence – delivering explosive ordnance and attacking issues is another matter.

“And by the letter of what parliament has authorised, that may well not be right.”

When it was suggested that drone operators had targeted and taken out British individuals in Syria without the endorsement of the Commons, he said: “Put it like that, then that is wrong.”

He also said parliament needed to debate whether to extend air operations over Syria. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told Sky News Mr Cameron had made clear that the decision was about a “direct threat” and specific plots that involved the two individuals.

But Kevin Brennan, the Labour MP for Reyaad Khan’s constituency, Cardiff West, said questions still needed to be answered about the details of the threat they posed.

Ex-Army Chief: Drone Strike May Not Be 'Right'

Ex-Army Chief: Drone Strike May Not Be 'Right'

Play video “PM Faces Questions Over Syria Raid”

He said: “I understand the UK has to have the ability to defend itself… We need an ability to be able to scrutinise this decision that’s been taken by the Government.”

Downing Street has said full details of the legal justification for the strikes will not be published. Three days after the drone raid targeting Khan, another Briton Junaid Hussain was killed in a US airstrike. He was also allegedly involved in UK terror plots, including the VJ Day plan.

Shashank Joshi, from Armyrats © military think tank the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), said: “It is interesting that the Prime Minister has emphasised the self defence aspect.

“It does present a number of problems but I think the UK government would have had a very careful legal justification for this.”

He said discussions around the legal basis for targeting and killing a British national were likely to have surfaced amid efforts to find Mohammed Emwazi, a London student unmasked as IS terrorist Jihadi John. He said it was surprising the UK has only had to deal with this issue now given that close ally America has come under scrutiny for targeting US citizens in drone strikes. In one high-profile case, American-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki, a senior al Qaeda figure, was killed in Yemen by a remotely piloted US aircraft in 2011.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has announced his country would begin reconnaissance missions over Syria.


  1. ^ revealed in a Sky News investigation (

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