Ian Pannell and Darren Conway reported to National Counter Terrorism Security Office

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 22 November 2017 12:13
To: NaCTSO@cpni.gsi.gov.uk
Subject: Former BBC reporter Ian Pannell and BBC cameraman Darren Conway

To Whom It May Concern

I wish to inform you that the above named individuals apparently established a business relationship with members of a jihadi group with links to al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in August 2013.

At 10 minutes 18 seconds in the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children Mr Pannell states: “Western journalists have been targeted in Syria, so I have to travel with my own security.”

From 10 minutes 28 seconds to 10 minutes 38 seconds in the programme the logo of Ahrar al-Sham is visible on the front of one the vehicles in Pannell and Conway’s security convoy (see image below).

Wikipedia categorises Ahrar al-Sham’s ideology as ‘Salafist jihadism’ and states that the group:

aims to create an Islamic state under Sharia law, and in the past has cooperated with the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Ahrar al-Sham was co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers” Abu Khalid al-Suri, real name Mohamed Bahaiah. Bahaiah, now deceased, was al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in the Levant. Bahaiah is suspected by Spanish investigators of delivering surveillance tapes of the World Trade Centre to al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in Afghanistan in 1998.

Wikipedia indicates that Ahrar al-Sham was working in partnership with ISIS at the time Pannell and Conway were travelling with them in August 2013:

Ahrar al-Sham had worked with ISIS until the two groups began their present-day hostilities with one another in January 2014

The partnership between Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS would seem to be borne out by the section of Saving Syria’s Children from 10 minutes 47 seconds to 11 minutes 40 seconds, in which Pannell and Conway’s convoy passes unmolested through an ISIS checkpoint (see image below).

According to Human Rights Watch, less than three weeks before Pannell and Conway began filming on Saving Syria’s Children Ahrar al-Sham was, along with ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, among “the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors” of attacks in which at least 190 civilians, including women, children and elderly men, were killed and over 200 mostly women and children were kidnapped.

The BBC’s own news reports describe Ahrar al-Sham as a “hardline Islamist” group.

I have written further about this matter here:

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has written to the BBC on my behalf on the matter as documented here:

Mr Pannell is currently resident in London. He may be contacted through his current employers, ABC News. Mr Conway is an Australian citizen and may be contacted through his production company IFA Media.

I would also like to make you aware of related concerns regarding the UK registered charity Hand in Hand for Syria, which was featured in Saving Syria’s Children. In particular, an employee of Hand in Hand for Syria, Iessa Obied, has been photographed posing with an array of weapons including an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (see images below).

Iessa Obied is the younger brother of Abdulrahman Obied, who has described himself as the Medical Director of Atareb Hospital, which featured in Saving Syria’s Children and which Hand in Hand for Syria has previously described as its “flagship medical facility”. Hand in Hand for Syria’s Medical Director, British-Syrian medic Dr Rola Hallam, was filmed in conversation with Abdulrahman Obied at Atareb Hospital in the programme (see image below).

Further information regarding Hand in Hand for Syria is here:

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart

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