It is too early to celebrate the demise of Islamic State, an expert warned yesterday.
Raffaello Pantucci a researcher into radicalisation, said the organisation will remain a threat to the West despite it being on the verge of losing the last of its territory.
He said that hardline jihadists who have remained with Isis until its current demise are likely to be loyal to their cause and continue to pose a threat.
His comments come as Shamima Begum made a fresh appeal to return to Britain after running away from her school in London in 2015 to join Isis.
Mr Pantucci, associate fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, said: “The fact that the group isn’t able to project the same image of success and victory on the battlefield puts it in a less attractive space for young people in our country.
“But we’re missing something if we think it’s no longer a problem.
“Isis is now in a period of reduction, but there’s nothing to say that it won’t grow again. The people who are still there now, frankly speaking, are fairly dedicated individuals who decided to stick around as the thing was falling down around them. I think they are clearly people of concern.
“Having said that, we live in a society where rehabilitation and penance exist so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we should take them back, put them through some sort of due process and then ultimately turn them back over to society because that’s how we should operate.”
Begum, who is now 19, left Bethnal Green in 2015 but is now in a Syrian refugee camp and just days away from giving birth to her third child.
In an interview yesterday, she said she expects to be charged with terrorism offences if she is allowed to come back to the UK.
She added: “What do you think will happen to my child? Because I don’t want it to be taken from me, or at least if it is, to be given to my family.”
But Dr Magnus Ranstorp, former director of St Andrews University’s Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, said governments are unlikely to help people like Shamima as they made the choice to join a “horrific murderous terrorist group”.
Isis using women and kids as shield
Thousands of civilians being held as human shields have delayed the battle for Islamic State’s final stronghold.
US-backed Kurdish forces are poised to seize Baghuz in Syria from the last group of Isis fighters.
But it has emerged the militants have been hiding among civilians including women and children.
Jiya Furat, the leader of the battle for Baghuz for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said: “Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields.
“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh [Isis].”
US President Donald Trump had declared on Friday that the caliphate was just 24 hours from being eradicated.
But the head of MI6 has warned that the threat from Isis is not over as the group will “morph and spread.”