Justice secretary says government can only 'act within our powers' as pregnant IS bride Shamima Begum bids for UK return

Justice Secretary David Gauke has told ITV News the government has to "act within our powers" amid suggestions it may not be able to stop the so-called Islamic State bride Shamima Begum returning to the UK.

Mr Gauke said the government's priority was protecting the British public with those who fled to Syria to join the jihadi cause look to return the UK but confirmed it would deal with returnees on a "case-by-case basis".

The comments sit a little at odds with the declaration made by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who said on Friday he would "not hesitate" to block anyone supporting terrorist organisations from returning to the UK.

The Begum family has told ITV News they want the government to step in and bring the heavily pregnant 19 year old home from Syria as a "matter of urgency".

Asked on Saturday how the government will act, Mr Gauke said: "We do have to look at these matters on a case-by-case basis but I think the priority for the government has to be protecting the British public as a whole.

"Those who go to the Middle East to ally themselves with our enemies - those who threaten our way of life - have to recognise that there are significant risks for them.

"We have to act within our powers, we have to look at each case on an individual basis and that's what we will do."

In a statement, the Begum family told ITV News they accept Shamima should face justice, but say that should be in Britain.

Begum, who ran away from her London school to join so-called Islamic State in Syria when she was 15 and later escaped, is currently being held in a refugee camp.

School friends Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, and Shamima Begum (far right) travelled to Syria four years ago. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Her child is expected to be born imminently.

Her family added that Begum's baby is "a total innocent" and has "every right" to "grow up in the peace and security" of the UK as it will "be British".

On Friday the head of MI6 Alex Younger said while returning IS fighters and brides are "potentially dangerous" the authorities cannot stop British nationals coming home.

His comments came after Mr Javid said he would try to stop Begum returning home.

"My message is clear - if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return," Mr Javid said.

"If you do manage to return you should be ready to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted."

Shamima Begum said she had 'no regrets' about joining so-called Islamic State in Syria. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Despite wanting to return home, the teenager said she had "no regrets" about travelling to Syria.

Begum's family said they were "utterly shocked" by what they heard in the interview with the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl.

"But to us, those are the words of a girl who was groomed at the age of 15; we are also mindful that Shamima is currently in a camp surrounded by IS sympathisers and any comments by her could lead directly to danger to her and her child," they added.

They said: "Given Shamima’s four-year ordeal, we are concerned that her mental health has been affected by everything that she has seen and endured.

"Now, we are faced with the situation of knowing that Shamima's two young children have died – children that we will never come to know as a family."