London: The British government has launched a probe after the revelation that some British Muslims of Pakistani origin have joined extremist groups in Syria to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
British journalist John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans, who were captured and held for a week at an extremist training camp in northwestern Syria, revealed the extremists were British with "Birmingham and South London accents", reports the Daily Times.
Cantlie said the militants who detained them included several radical Muslims from Britain who were intent on overthrowing the regime of President Assad.
"Shot in the arm, smashed feet after a botched escape attempt, but safe and sound. Before we were rescued, 30 percent of the extremists who held us were British," Cantlie was quoted, as saying.
Oerlemans said that their captors were militants from Britain, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Chechnya. He said some of the group, described as between 30 and 100 strong, had "Birmingham accents".
Oerlemans said they spoke of being under the leadership of an unidentified "amir".
"They were definitely quite extreme in their religious beliefs. All day we were spoken to about the holy Quran and how they would bring sharia law to Syria. I don't think they were al Qaeda, they seemed too amateurish for that," Oerlemans said.
"They said, 'We're not al Qaeda, but al Qaeda is down the road'. They would cock their weapons and say, 'Prepare for the afterlife', or, 'You better repent and accept Islam'. It was pretty terrifying, I can assure you," he added.
First Published: Monday, July 30, 2012, 21:14