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  1. ITV Report

British 'veteran fighter' plans to return to UK after fighting Assad's forces in Syria

*ITV News UK Editor Lucy Manning reports: *

A Briton claiming to be "experienced in war" who now wants to fight with the rebels in Syria has told ITV News that he intends to return to the UK once his mission in the country is finished.

The man, who wants to be identified as 'Abu Firas', said he has previously fought in Afghanistan and considers fighting his "job".

Firas has travelled to Turkey and was interviewed in a safe house a couple of hours away from the town of Antakya, which borders Syria and is often where fighters first travel to.

He told ITV News that he plans on entering Syria to battle President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Once his mission is finished, he intends to return to his wife and children in Britain.

I fought in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance, I've fought against the American occupation and I returned back to the UK straight after that.

I was there for some time and I came back to the UK and I was a law-abiding citizen in the UK.

I didn't [pose a] threat or a security risk in the UK, I'm perfectly normal. I have my beliefs and I think that it's wrong what's happening in Syria and that's why I want to go there.

Hopefully once I've served my time and I think that it's time to come back, I will do that.

– Abu Firas

Firas, who is a graduate in his late 30s, was born in the UK and said he is "contented with his normal life" in Britain.

He said that his family both understands and supports his decision to fight the "oppression" in Syria.

However, he also issued a stark warning to young Britons thinking about travelling to the war-torn country.

Firas, who has been to Syria twice before, considers himself to be a veteran fighter but said those without experience in war could prove to be a "liability" in Syria.

I'm experienced in war, I am a fighter. I would not recommend anybody who doesn't have experience in war to go to Syria and cause a problem or become a liability to the people.

If you have something valuable to contribute then I would recommend [it].

There are other ways to help, you can support the Syrians through your wealth, through medical support - there are various other ways you can help.

– Abu Firas

Hundreds of Britons are fighting in Syria and police in the UK have made it clear that no-one should travel to the country.

There has been a big increase in arrests of those who have returned from Syria, with authorities concerned that fighters could come back and attack Britain.

Firas said that Muslims who are motivated to travel to Syria and help should not be punished by the British authorities.

I don't think it should be a big problem if people are motivated by their faith to go and do something good, they should be allowed to just do that.

You can't stop people who are motivated, who are affected by something that is wrong. If they believe that something is wrong and they want to make a difference, they should be allowed.

I can't really sit at home and watch whilst the regime drops barrel bombs on people, on hospitals, on schools. This is against humanity, this is a humanity issue.

– Abu Firas

Firas would not disclose which brigade he was fighting with in Syria, although he revealed that it was not the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) - which was a former affiliate of al-Qaeda.

When asked whether he would want Sharia law in Syria, the Briton said he was in the war-torn country to "act as a servant" to the people and not to impose his views on them.

I'm going to Syria to help the Syrians. On whether there should be an Islamic state - that's for the Syrians to decide.

I'm going to be acting like a servant to the Syrians, that's what I'm going for. I don't agree with what's going on in Syria, it's wrong and an Islamic state can be decided by the Syrians themselves.

– Abu Firas

Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, told ITV News' Lucy Manning that Firas' message was atypical of what other British fighters were saying.

British fighters have tended to say this war is an individual obligation on every Muslim.

[British fighters have said] every Muslim should drop what they're doing right now in Britain and come immediately over to Syria and that they should join some of the more intemperate and violent groups out there.

This guy's message goes really against that, he's saying 'look, there are hot heads out here, there are a lot of people out here who shouldn't really have come out here in the first place and if you're thinking of coming, don't come unless you have something unique and specific that you can add.

– Abu Firas

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