UK - SYRIA

Cameron vows to hunt down IS 'monsters' after Haines murder

Photo: AFP / John Stillwell | UK Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media on the murder of British aid worker David Haines, at 10 Downing Street on September 14, 2014
5 min

UK Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organisation as “monsters” Sunday after the Foreign Office said a video showing the murder of a British aid worker appeared to be authentic.

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"All the signs are that the video is genuine, we have no reason to believe that it's not," a spokesman for the Foreign Office told AFP.

The video showing the beheading of David Haines, who was abducted in Syria last year, was released by IS militants late Saturday. It was the third beheading of a Western hostage by the group in less than a month.

After chairing a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee Sunday, Cameron condemned IS, which has conquered vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in recent months, as the "embodiment of evil" and vowed that the UK would do everything possible to find Haines’s killers.

"We will hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice, no matter how long it takes," the grim-faced premier said in a televised statement from Downing Street.

He continued: "Step by step we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL (IS) and what is stands for. We will do so in a calm, deliberate way but with an iron determination.

"We will not do so on our own, but by working closely with our allies, not just the United States and in Europe, but with our allies in the region."

US President Barack Obama said after the killing that the United States would stand with Britain in an expanded effort against the terror group.

“We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world,” he said.

No comment on air strikes

Haines, 44, had been taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 while working for the French NGO ACTED, which was helping thousands of Syrians displaced by the fighting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel groups, including IS, seeking to oust him.

Cameron described 44-year-old Haines as a "British hero", saying that "his selflessness, his decency, his burning desire to help others has today cost him his life".

Those who killed him "are not Muslims, they are monsters", he said.

Cameron repeated his support for US air strikes against IS in Iraq, and for President  Obama's strategy to build a broad coalition to fight the jihadists.

But despite growing calls at home for action against IS, Cameron made no commitment to Britain joining the air strikes.

London began sending arms this week to Kurdish fighters battling IS militants in northern Iraq, but it has faced accusations of confusion over its strategy.

During a visit to Berlin this week, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would not take part in strikes against IS in Syria, after parliament last year voted against taking military action in that country.

But just hours later, a spokesman for Cameron's Downing Street office insisted the prime minister was not ruling anything out.

In the footage of Haines’s murder, a hooded militant blames Cameron for joining forces with the United States and says the alliance will drag the British people into "another bloody and unwinnable war".

‘Barbaric crime must not remain unpunished’

In a statement, ACTED said it was “deeply appalled and horrified” by the murder.

“David was a new member of the ACTED team supporting the emergency humanitarian response for the displaced Syrian people in Atmeh camp near to the Turkish border,” it said.

“David was appreciated by the ACTED team and all those around him, notably for his generosity, commitment, and his professionalism.

“The horrible assassination of David, an aid worker, goes against all humanitarian principles and is a crime against humanity. This barbaric crime must not remain unpunished.”

Before joining ACTED, Haines had also worked for groups such as Handicap International, which helps the disabled during conflicts, and Nonviolent Peaceforce, which sends unarmed peacekeepers into conflict zones. He had previously been in Libya during its civil war and South Sudan.

His brother, Mike Haines, said he had also worked for the United Nations in the Balkans “helping people in real need”.

“His joy and anticipation for the work he went to do in Syria is for myself and family the most important element of this whole sad affair,” Mike Haines said. “He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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