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Cameron invites Harman to national security meeting

Acting Labour leader PA Credit: PA

David Cameron has taken the unusual step of inviting the Leader of the Opposition Harriet Harman to attend a National Security Council meeting on the threat posed by Islamic State jihadism.

The government is attempting to build a consensus on expanding the RAF's campaign of air strikes on Isis forces in Iran to Syria, and will also cover the elevated threat to British tourists in Tunisia following the Sousse beach massacre.

As well as Ms Harman, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker has been invited to the NSC, with Downing Street sources indicating the Prime Minister believes it would be "helpful" for the Labour figures to attend "given recent events".

Mr Cameron believes Isis needs to be confronted in its Syrian stronghold but is reluctant to ask MPs to vote on extending British military action into the country unless he can be assured of Labour's support.

Australian FM: Islamic State developing chemical weapons

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Islamic State have used chlorine-based weapons. Credit: Mal Fairclough / AAP/PA Images

Islamic State (IS) militants have used chlorine as a weapon and are recruiting highly trained technicians in a bid to develop chemical weapons, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned.

In a speech, Ms Bishop said the rise of militant groups such as IS also known as Daesh, posed "one of the gravest security threats we face today."

"Apart from some crude and small scale endeavours, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponise chemical agents has been largely aspirational," Bishop told a meeting in Perth in a speech that was posted online.

"The use of chlorine by Daesh, and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development," she said.

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Isis hostages 'have less than 24 hours to live'

An online message purportedly from the Islamic State group has warned that a Japanese hostage and a Jordanian pilot it is holding have less than '24 hours left to live'.

Senior Japanese officials are trying to authenticate the video, which like a previous message over the weekend does not bear the logo of the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm.

Freelance journalist Kenji Goto was seized in late October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue another hostage, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, who was captured by the militants last summer.

Protesters holding placards chant 'Save Kenji' during a demonstration Credit: Pierre Boutier/ABACAPRESS.COM

The message also mentioned Jordanian pilot Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, who who has been held by the extremist Islamic State group after crashing in December.

A video over the weekend showed a still photo of Kenji Goto holding what appears to be a photo of the body of murdered Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa.

Today's message repeated demands for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who has been sentenced to death in Jordan for involvement in a 2005 terror attack that killed 60 people.

I hope we can all firmly work hard and join hands to cooperate, and for the two countries (Japan and Jordan) to cooperate, in order for us to see the day when the Jordanian pilot and our Japanese national Mr. Goto, can both safely return to their own countries with a smile on their faces.

– Yasuhide Nakayama, Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister

Labour: We need clarity on Iraq deployment timetable

Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said tonight it supports the steps taken by the international coalition to assist in the fight against Isis, but called for the government to provide clarity on the timescale for the deployment of UK forces.

Labour supports the steps taken by the international coalition to assist Iraq’s government in responding to ISIL. It is right that the UK's Armed Forces continue to provide training and equipment in support of this effort.

The government should provide clarity about the scale, scope and timeframe of the deployment of these further trainers. The Defence Secretary should clearly outline the numbers of military trainers involved and the work that they will be doing, so that there can be no misunderstanding about the role of British troops in Iraq.

– Vernon Coaker MP

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Additional British troops to be sent to Iraq on training mission

File photo dated 09/12/06 of British Army soldiers Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

An extra deployment of British troops numbering in the "low hundreds" will be sent to Iraq next month to help train local military units battling Islamic State militants, the Defence Secretary has announced.

Michael Fallon said details of the contribution to an international mission were still being finalised but would probably include a small protection contingent of combat-ready British soldiers at four US-led "safe" centres.

RAF planes have been heavily involved for several months in air strikes and reconnaissance missions across Iraq which have forced IS fighters to switch tactics and lay low in towns and villages - requiring a ground offensive, Mr Fallon told the Telegraph.

The move represents a significant swelling of the 50-strong British force presently engaged in preparing Iraqi and Kurdish fighters for a new phase of the fight to retake swathes of territory seized by the jihadis.

A big element of the UK contribution will be passing on the experience gained during the 13-year war with the Taliban in Afghanistan in dealing with roadside bombs and other explosive devices, Mr Fallon suggested.

Former soldier 'fighting with Kurds against Isis in Syria'

A former soldier is thought to be among a growing number of Brits joining the fight against Isis inside Syria. Pictures and videos suggest that James Hughes, from Reading, is in Rojava, northern Syria, helping to defend the beleaguered city of Kobani. Correspondent Dan Rivers reports.

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