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Jeremy Hunt says it was 'not safe' to rescue Shamima Begum's son Jarrah from Syrian refugee camp

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt Credit: BBC/The Andrew Marr Show

Jeremy Hunt has insisted officials are working on how to rescue British children born to Islamic State runaways after the death of Shamima Begum's baby in a Syrian camp.

The Foreign Secretary's defence came after it was reported that two further women married into the terror group have been stripped of their UK citizenship while being held in detention camps with their children.

Ms Begum, who ran way from home in east London to join the terror organisation at the age of 15, had pleaded to return to Britain with her son, Jarrah, after already losing two children, but Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship.

Mr Javid has faced growing criticism over the move after her three-week-old son died in a camp last week, with his Labour counterpart Diane Abbott calling the death a "stain on the conscience of this Government".

Since Jarrah was born before his mother's British citizenship was revoked, he too was a British citizen.

Shamima Begum's son Jarrah was born in Al-Hol refugee camp. Credit: ITV News

Asked on The Andrew Marr Show why no one had gone out to Syria to rescue the baby from the refugee camps he was in, the Foreign Secretary said it is too dangerous to send government officials into the war-torn country to bring back British citizens.

Mr Hunt described the death of Jarrah as "distressing and sad" and said the Government had "been trying to do everything we can".

The 52-year-old continued that the Foreign Office had not sent officials to Syria because "we have to think about the safety of the British officials that I would send into that war zone as a representative of the Government".

Mr Hunt continued that when Begum first travelled to Syria in 2015 she knew she was going to join a "terrorist organisation" and that "she was going to a country where there was no embassy, there was no consular assistance, and I'm afraid those decisions - awful though it is - they do have consequences".

However, ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy - who is in Syria - reported that while the country has been locked in a civil war for the past nine years and "nowhere is particularly safe", she and her team had travelled "backwards and forwards" to the Al-Hol refugee camp on Sunday - the place where Jarrah was born.

She continued that "the road is manned at regular intervals by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who have checkpoints and there is a careful assessment of who is going in, and who is going out".

She added that over the past few weeks "numerous British media teams have been able to get access to Shamima Begum, either in the camp where she gave birth, or the camp that she was moved to".

However, when questioned along similar lines by Andrew Marr, Mr Hunt replied that "sending a British Government official into a war zone where you're getting advice that those officials' lives may be put at risk is a very different matter...

"Journalists are able to travel to different parts of the world and they have some protection due to the fact that they are press."

He continued that he was working alongside Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, to look into "how we can get in touch with these children, how we can get them out [of Syrian camps] safely".

He added that "sadly" in the case of Jarrah "it wasn't possible".

Mr Hunt's comments came as the SDF undertake a final push to try and dismantle the final area of so-called Islamic State's caliphate.

Emma Murphy reported that there is a "full-scale air assault taking place" and that the "SDF seem to be particularly confident that they are going to be able to succeed".

  • SDF forces launch an attack on Baghouz in a bid to end so-called Islamic State's caliphate

However, in recent days and weeks, when assaults on the final stronghold of Baghouz begin, so-called Islamic State end up controlling the battle and they send out civilians, meaning the SDF stop.

It is thought around 2,000 so-called Islamic State fighters remain in an area of Baghouz which is smaller than a mile, along with around 6,000 civilians who are largely the families of fighters.

It remains to be seen if Sunday marks the final few hours of the caliphate.