LONDON — People who act as "apologists" for terrorists are partly to blame for their actions, Britain's foreign minister said Tuesday, rejecting claims that slip-ups by the intelligence services helped turn young Britons into jihadi militants.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was countering allegations by Muslim advocacy organization CAGE, which says heavy-handed attention from British spies helped radicalize Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, who has been identified as the Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John."
Hammond said "the responsibility for acts of terror rests with those who commit them. But a huge burden of responsibility also lies with those who act as apologists for them."
Hammond strongly defended Britain's intelligence services in a speech to defense think tank the Royal United Services Institute, saying that "the sheer number and range" of threats — from state-sponsored aggression to terrorist groups and lone-wolf attackers — "amounts to the greatest challenge to our collective security for decades."
"It is only thanks to the dedication, and in many cases the brilliance, of our intelligence officers that we have succeeded to detect and contain these threats," he said.
Britain's intelligence services have been criticized for allowing Emwazi to slip their net and travel to Syria, even though he had been on their radar for years. And the families of other young Britons who have joined militants in Syria have accused intelligence and law-enforcement officials of doing too little to stop them.
On Tuesday, Parliament's Home Affairs committee will hear from relatives of three 15- and 16-year-old London schoolgirls who left Britain last month and are now believed to be in an IS-controlled region of Syria. The families have accused police of failing to communicate concerns that the girls were at risk of radicalization.
Hammond said parents, schools and community workers, "as well as the authorities and airports and airline operators," must be responsible for stopping young people becoming militants.