THE UK government is facing demands for an inquiry into the assassination of a Scottish Islamist terrorist in Syria as defiant ministers insisted they would not hesitate to repeat the action against other British Islamic State (IS) extremists in Syria.
A bullish Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has defended the use of a drone to kill Ruhul Amin, 26, from Aberdeen, along with Reyaad Khan, 21, from Cardiff, as Downing Street admitted a “kill list” of extremists was drawn up “months ago” ahead of the raid on 21 August. The target of the attack was Khan, who had been blamed for attempting to orchestrate terrorist atrocities in the UK, and it was later revealed that “Jihadi John”, the Londoner videoed beheading UK and American hostages, is on the top of the list of targets.
But Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson both demanded an inquiry into the raid and for the government to publish its legal advice.
The attack came two years after MPs voted against military action in Syria and is the first time the UK has openly carried out an air attack in a foreign state where it is not at war.
It has raised concerns that David Cameron is intending to bypass parliament in joining coalition raids on IS in Syria rather than limiting them to Iraq.
Mr Robertson said: “There must be a review of UK drone-strike policy by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee which is responsible for looking at sensitive intelligence and security matters.
“This important committee has never met since the general election and it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to help reconstitute it. I believe its first business should be to review UK drone policy which has changed dramatically, to include areas where military action has not been sanctioned by parliament.”
He added: “The UN Charter allows states to use lethal force in self-defence and the intelligence and security committee should be able to review the evidence that justified this attack.
Mr Burnham called for “greater accountability” from ministers on the drone strike.
He said: “It is unacceptable for ministers to say that they will not publish any further information.
“They must release the Attorney General’s legal advice and any intelligence that can reasonably be put into the public domain to justify the imminence of the threat to the country.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake is seeking permission to ask an urgent Commons question calling on ministers to provide “more information and clarification”.
He said: “The British public are highly sceptical of military interventions in the Middle East given the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq.
“To avoid any confusion – and to escape the long shadow of Iraq – we need to make sure this drone strike was legal.”
But Mr Fallon defended the move and said the government would use military strikes again if there was no other way to stop the terrorist cells.
He said: “There are other terrorists involved in other plots that may come to fruition over the next few weeks and months and we wouldn’t hesitate to take similar action again.”
Mr Fallon added that the government was prepared to take action against IS but a fresh vote on military action in Syria would need to be held in the Commons.
“At some point the new parliament will have to rethink the absurdity of us being able to strike against Isil [another name for IS] in Iraq but not being able to strike Isil’s command and control centres in north-east Syria,” he said.
Earlier, Downing Street revealed that the meeting of senior members of the National Security Council that approved the use of drones to target specific individuals in Syria took place “some months ago”.
But Mr Cameron’s spokeswoman declined to say whether the Attorney General was consulted again when the operational decision to kill Khan was taken.
She would also not confirm or deny whether there was a “kill list” of named individuals authorised to be targeted.