The children of extremists who travelled to Syria and Iraq are likely to have been radicalised by daily exposure to ISIS violence and see attacks on the UK as legitimate, according to a British intelligence report.
The findings from the 2018 report emerged on Tuesday at a court case involving Briton Shamima Begum, who is seeking the return of her British citizenship that was revoked after she travelled to join ISIS in Syria as a 15-year-old schoolgirl.
Security service MI5 concluded that individuals’ exposure to acts of extreme violence was likely to desensitise individuals to brutal acts and lead them to view terrorism in the UK as an “acceptable and legitimate course of action”.
Details of the security assessment, reported by The Guardian newspaper, follow a raft of reports that have exposed the plight of children caught in ISIS territory because of their parents' extremist views.
Children were recruited into ISIS from the age of nine and were used in roles including as spies, executioners and suicide bombers. They were also asked to report violations of religious laws by their parents, according to the report by the EU-funded Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).
They were also encouraged to watch public stonings, amputations and beheadings. “Such emotional 'reprogramming' culminates in children’s acceptance of violence as a natural way of life and facilitates the progression for children to conduct violence themselves as combatants, torturers and executioners,” according to a 2018 report by the London-based International Centre for Study of Radicalisation.
The RAN report suggested European Union nations were ill-prepared for any large-scale return of children of foreign terrorist fighters. Charity workers say there are about 60 British children among the 10,000 foreign youngsters in 11 camps in the former ISIS stronghold of Syria's north-east.
Ms Begum, 21, is currently in the Al Roj camp in northern Syria where conditions are said to be dire. She has been banned from Britain but wants to be allowed back to challenge the decision to strip her of her passport.
The government claims allowing her to come back would create significant national security risks.