Illustration: Syrian rebels in Damascus
Illustration: Syrian rebels in Damascus Reuters

Mohammed el-Araj, a twenty-year-old British Muslim, was killed in Syria while fighting for rebel forces against President Bashar Assad's regime. Araj, the second confirmed British citizen killed fighting in the Syrian war, previously was jailed for violently protesting outside the Israeli embassy in London.

Araj, the UK-raised son of Palestinian parents, was arrested in 2009 protesting the IDF counter-terror Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The Guardian reports that his sentence was cut from 2 years to 18 months.

Araj's story has raised concerns about home-grown UK terror, given that security services were unable to stop him from joining the fighting in Syria even after being jailed.

"This blows the lid off the traditional idea that if you create a space for angry, quite radical protests in the UK, in London, it provides a channel through which angry young men can dissipate their energies, lest they be attracted into terrorism," said Shiraz Maher, Senior research fellow at the British think-tank International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR)

Further concerns were recently raised by Andrew Parker, head of the British intelligence agency MI5, that "British-based jihadists will one day return from the killing fields of Syria and turn their new-found skills on the population back home."

There are an estimated 200 UK fighters in Syria, along with numerous other foreigners. Just recently Burak Kran, a former player on the German national soccer team, was killed fighting for the rebel forces.

Meanwhile Araj's death comes as reports say the ongoing internecine clashes in Syria will have a long term devastating effect on the refugees created by the crisis.

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