LONDON (AFP) - Four British men have been killed fighting alongside Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria, it was reported Thursday, as fears rise of the growing threat from jihadists returning from the war.
Three of the men, all thought to be from London, were killed in August as their group attacked forces loyal to President Bashir al-Assad near Aleppo, according to The Times.
The fourth man was shot two weeks later while trying to ambush an enemy position.
The Times said they were part of a ten-strong group of British jihadists who fought together and joined up with 20 other Britons to fight alongside the Al-Nusra Front, which is allied to Al-Qaeda.
Britain's intelligence agency MI5 estimates that between 200 and 300 young Britons have travelled to fight in Syria, and are concerned they will recruit new converts to their cause, or launch attacks at home.
A security source told The Times: "Some of those who went out in the early stages of the conflict have been able to return to Britain, radicalise others, and go back to Syria with others in tow." The Times named one of the men killed as Mr Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove in west London, whom it said died attempting to ambush pro-Assad forces.
He used the name "Abu Khalid" and photographs of him in Syria show him in paramilitary uniform and brandishing an AK-47 rifle.
The Times said Mr El-Araj was the son of an antiques dealer and had shown extremist leanings before going to Syria. In 2010 he was jailed for 18 months by a British court after being arrested during a violent protest outside the Israeli embassy in London.
He had fought in Syria alongside the three other men who were killed by a shell two weeks earlier.
Police arrested two men who had recently returned from Syria in central London last month. They are allegedly linked to a terror plot.
Earlier this month, charges were dropped against two British men, including a doctor, accused of being part of a jihadist group which kidnapped British photographer John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans.