A British man who claims he has been fighting alongside jihadi militants in Syria has said he will not return to the UK until he can raise “the black flag of Islam” over Downing Street.
The comments were broadcast as religious leaders called on British Muslims not to travel to Syria and Iraq, amid fears of jihadis leaving the UK to take part in terrorism.
An open letter signed by more than 100 imams from across major theological backgrounds and cultural groups has urged British Muslim communities “to continue the generous and tireless effort to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq”, but to do so “from the UK in a safe and responsible way”.
The letter comes during the Islamic festival of Ramadan, but against a troubling backdrop of tensions between the Middle East and the West.
The situation has been underlined by the stepping up of security precautions in British and American airports among others, amid reports that two terror networks in Syria and Yemen are working together on a bomb that could evade existing measures.
Concerns have also been raised about homegrown involvement in terrorism after Britons appeared in a propaganda video for insurgent group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis).
Among them was aspiring jihadi Aseel Muthana, who told the BBC he was fighting in Syria and had no intention of returning to the UK.
His brother Nasser appeared with two other British men – Reyaad Khan, 20, from Cardiff, and Abdul Raqib Amin, who grew up in Aberdeen – in an Isis propaganda video.
BBC 5 Live broadcast an interview with a man calling himself Abu Osama, whose accent suggested he comes from the north of England and who claimed to have been fighting for the establishment of a caliphate – which he referred to by the Arabic term khilafah – across the Islamic world.
His claim to have been taking part in military training, making bombs and fighting with the extremist al-Nusra Front, linked to al-Qaeda, has not been verified.
The man told interviewer Nicky Campbell: “I have no intention of coming back to Britain, because I have come to revive the Islamic khilafah. There is nothing in Britain, it is just pure evil.
“If and when I come back to Britain, it will be when this khilafah – this Islamic state – comes to conquer Britain and I come to raise the black flag of Islam over Downing Street, over Buckingham Palace, over Tower Bridge and over Big Ben.”
The man said he initially faced opposition from his family over his decision to go to Syria: “I send them photos and I speak to them about the situation, and now they can understand that this is a good cause I am in.
“They are a bit scared but I tell them we will meet in the afterlife. This is just a temporary separation.”
Describing the activities he claimed he had been involved with in Syria, Osama told the BBC: “We do a lot of missionary work with the people. We also make bombs. And in Ramadan, as you can imagine, it’s very busy. We make bombs to blow the enemies of Allah to pieces.”
In April, the Metropolitan Police issued a plea for people to come forward with information about their family members if they were concerned about them joining terrorist training camps in Syria.
Imam Qari Qasim, from Leeds Makkah mosque, is one of the authors of the imams’ letter and said he was “utterly shocked” by the man’s comments.
He said: “Islam itself has been hijacked and people like the individual we heard on this clip have been completely brainwashed.
“It’s completely ridiculous to say that people, fellow human beings, are enemies and as a result they should be blown up.
“Obviously, social media plays a huge part, the internet plays a huge part, in brainwashing and radicalising people.”
He added: “A lot of work needs to be done, and it’s not just the responsibility of the Muslim community and the imams. It’s law-enforcement, intelligence services.
“We all need to work together in partnership and make sure that young British Muslims are not preyed upon by those who want to use them for their own political gains.”