[JURIST] British police counter-terrorism forces announced on Tuesday the arrest of Moazzam Begg [Guardian backgrounder] in his hometown of Birmingham, England, along with three other individuals on suspicion of terrorism offenses related to the war in Syria [JURIST backgrounder]. Begg was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder], and he was one of the last detainees from the UK to be returned. British authorities have expressed concern [NYT report] about their citizens fighting in jihadist groups in Syria, and Begg is the most high profile arrestee in connection with the UK’s attempt to minimize influence in the Syrian conflict. The police reported Begg is suspected [Guardian report] of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas. According to British counter-terrorism laws, the police are authorized to detain Begg for up to 14 days, and police will conduct a search of the arrestee’s vehicles and electronic devices.
Britons traveling to Syria is one of the major counter-terrorism threats facing the UK police. The estimated number of aspiring jihadists traveling from the UK to Syria has risen [WSJ report] to at least 400. Begg was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and he was one of a small group of UK nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay. The US claimed that he was a recruiter and fundraiser for al Qaeda, but he was released without charge in 2005 after the British government intervened to free their citizens from Guantanamo. Following his release Begg was outspoken about the conditions in Guantanamo and he made remarks [JURIST reports] about terroristic activity. In early 2005, the UK government denied passports [JURIST report] to some of the Britons released from Guantanamo Bay.