London: Two British nationals were among three Islamic state militants killed in a UK drone strike in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday, in the first such assault carried out in a country Britain is not at war with.
British nationals Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin were killed in what the Prime Minister?described as an "act of self-defence".
The prime target was 21-year-old Khan, who he said was "seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the west".
"My first duty as prime minister is to keep the British people safe. That is what I will always do. There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him," Cameron said in reference to the Royal Air Force (RAF) strike.
"This government does not for one moment take these decisions lightly but I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and explain to the house why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done. That is why I believe our approach is right," he said.
Khan was born and grew up in the Welsh city of Cardiff. He had adopted the name Abu Dujana and travelled to Syria in November 2013.
He had appeared in an ISIS propaganda video called 'There is no life without jihad' and had sparked fears last year when he boasted he was preparing for "martyrdom" and "fireworks" in the UK.
The football and computer games fan had once dreamed of becoming Britain's first Asian Prime Minister in a Facebook post but in 2014 his family said they feared he had been brainwashed into thinking he was helping people.
According to The Telegraph, Khan grew up in the same street as Abdul Miah, one of the ringleaders of a foiled terror plot that intended to unleash an attack on London along the lines of the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
"This was a very sensitive operation to prevent a very real threat to the country," Cameron said, describing the action to assassinate Khan as "entirely lawful".
"Today I can inform the house that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21st August by an RAF (Royal Air Force) remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria," he told the House of Commons.
"In addition to Reyaad Khan who was the target of the strike, two ISIL associates were also killed, one of whom Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national.
They were ISIL fighters and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties. We took this action because there was no alternative," he said.
"In this area, there is no government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots. And there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home," Cameron told MPs.
"So we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action," he added.
His comments came as part of a wider statement on the UK government's response to the situation in Syria, including taking in 20,000 more refugees over the next five years.
The scheme will be paid for in the first year from the overseas aid budget.
After that, Cameron said the government would have consider, in co-operation with local councils, how it would be financed.
Cameron stressed the recent strike was part of a broader counter-terrorism strategy, to counter direct threats to British citizens.
He told Parliament: "In recent weeks it has been reported that two ISIL fighters of British nationality who had been plotting attacks against the UK and other countries have been killed in airstrikes,".
"Both Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan, were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting ISIL sympathisers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the west including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain, such as plots to attack high profile public commemorations, including those taking place this summer," Cameron said.
"We should be under no illusion. Their intention was the murder of British citizens. So on this occasion we ourselves took action. The US administration has also confirmed that Junaid Hussain was killed in an American airstrike on 24th August in Raqqah," he added.