MI5 sounded Bengali boy: Report

British intelligence tried to recruit Siddhartha Dhar, the Bengali boy turned Islamic State terrorist, to be one of their informers, it was claimed today.

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 11.01.16
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Siddhartha Dhar with his newborn

London, Jan. 10: British intelligence tried to recruit Siddhartha Dhar, the Bengali boy turned Islamic State terrorist, to be one of their informers, it was claimed today.

Siddhartha, who grew up in a traditional Hindu family but was apparently persuaded to convert to Islam by some of his more militant Muslim friends, is suspected of being what the British have nicknamed "the new Jihadi John" - the face behind the latest Islamic State execution video.

His sister Konika, who is trying desperately to get her brother back alive from Syria, has said the voice sounds "a bit" like that of her brother's but she does not think the man in the video is "Sid" - whom she also calls "Dada".

The British security services obviously suspect Siddhartha to be the man in the video. According to The Sunday Times, "counterterrorism officers from Scotland Yard last week visited the home of Dhar's family in Palmers Green, north London, at least twice to interview his relatives".

Konika, three years younger than her 32-year-old brother, who now goes by the name Abu Rumaysah, told the newspaper: "I believe my brother is unwell; he needs help and intensive care."

She added: "I think it will be harder for him to make rational decisions based on his current state of health. He has been completely brainwashed.... I'm very disappointed in the person he has become but I still love him because he is my brother."

Konika, younger sister Lolita and their mother Sobita realise that Siddhartha is now a high-value target for a drone attack, whether or not he is the man in the video.

"The police and security services have refused to confirm the identity of the masked man - or indeed if they have identified him," The Sunday Times reported.

Konika said: "I would rather see him rehabilitated in prison in the UK than dead on the Syrian battlefield."

But there is another danger for Siddhartha, who is somewhere in Syria with his wife and four children. If there's even a hint that he is softening in his commitment to the Islamic State and the extremist cause, his new friends would not show the slightest hesitation in eliminating the entire family.

The security services have faced criticism for allowing Siddhartha to escape to Syria - with his then pregnant wife and their three children - when he was released on bail after his arrest in September last year. All they apparently had to do was catch a bus to Paris from Victoria station.

Many will wonder if they were deliberately "allowed" to escape in the hope that he would seriously consider the offer from MI5. There might even have been a cash component in the job description.

The Sunday Times claimed: "MI5 tried to recruit the terrorist suspected of being the 'new Jihadi John' before he fled Britain to join the terrorist group.... British intelligence officers contacted Siddhartha Dhar on at least two occasions before he was arrested for alleged terrorism offences.

"MI5 officials warned the 32-year-old former bouncy castle salesman that he was likely to end up in jail or dead unless he agreed to become a double agent gathering intelligence on terrorist suspects for the service. However, the Muslim convert was arrested soon afterwards."

An intelligence source told the newspaper: "MI5 had a lot of intelligence on Dhar. He was regarded as a militant Islamist, and although he was a potential threat, he was also a potential asset to MI5.

"It is a tried and tested tactic to try and recruit those who may pose a threat to the security of the state. MI5 used it with great success against the IRA to create a string of double agents, and it is being used against (Islamic extremists).

"Dhar was bumped into (by an MI5 agent in the street) and told he was on MI5's radar. They basically said, 'We know who you are, what you are up to, who you have been meeting with and what you are planning.'

"They are basically saying, 'We've got you.' For the person at the end of that, it's quite terrifying. They think they are part of some covert conspiracy, and then someone comes up to you in the street and says we know all about you."

The source told the newspaper that during the second meeting with MI5, Siddhartha was given the opportunity to work for British intelligence.

"Dhar was told that his life in the UK as a would-be (extremist) was over. If he went to Syria, MI5 warned, he would in all likelihood be killed in battle or a drone strike. His only option was to become an agent."

On reaching Syria, Siddhartha "taunted the British authorities by boasting of his new life in the self-styled caliphate and posted pictures of himself on Twitter holding an AK-47 in one arm and his baby son in the other".