U.K. defense secretary says we should 'eliminate' ISIS fighters

Image: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson CBE MP, holds bilateral talks with US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.Owen Cooban / Getty Images file

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/ Source: Reuters

LONDON — British citizens who have joined the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq should be hunted down and killed, according to the U.K.'s new defense minister.

British Defende Secretary Gavin WilliamsonOwen Cooban / Getty Images file

Gavin Williamson said that Britons who had gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIS hated what the West stands for. He suggested that airstrikes could be used against the estimated 270 British citizens who are still out there.

"Quite simply my view is a dead terrorist can't cause any harm to Britain," Williamson told the Daily Mail in an interview published late on Wednesday.

"We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat," he said, adding that he believed any British fighters who joined ISIS should never be allowed to return to the United Kingdom.

Related: What Should West Do With Fighters Returning From Syria, Iraq?

Williamson, 41, has been defense minister for little over a month, replacing Michael Fallon after he quit in a sexual harassment scandal.

Prominent British militants such as Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, and Sally Jones, have been reportedly killed by British or U.S. forces since travelling to fight for ISIS.

Emwazi participated in numerous propaganda videos in the killings of Westerners, including American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig.

After the death of Jones, who was known as the "White Widow," Fallon said that British nationals who chose to leave the UK and fight for Islamic State were a "legitimate target."