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UK brigade fights in Syria secretly
Sky News has gained the first access to a previously unknown brigade of exclusively British jihadists fighting in Syria.
Until now, the existence of this UK brigade has been kept a secret, but it reveals that British security services have hugely underestimated the scale of UK nationals involved in the bloodshed.
In a series of wide-ranging and frank interviews, the jihadists, who have asked Sky News to protect their identities for fear of a backlash against their families in the UK, reveal that hundreds of young men from Britain have joined the fight against Bashar al Assad’s government and that “at least” four die each month.
They also claim that the UK remains the largest single source of private fundraising for jihadi fighters, outdoing countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
In the interviews, carried out by US journalist and Muslim convert, Bilal Abdul Kareem, exclusively for Sky News, the Islamic fighters insist they have no intention of attacking UK targets or waging jihad on British soil.
The heads of the UK’s security services have warned of young men travelling to Syria risk being radicalised before returning home to carry out terror attacks in Britain.
Fighting on a mountain top in the northeast of the country, these men look like hardcore jihadists, but when they speak they are pure Brits.
They joke and laugh between themselves, sometimes comparing the now ubiquitous “selfies”.
But they hardly speak any Arabic and are dependent on one of their number to give orders on the battlefield.
Like British soldiers, they discuss kit and the best things to buy for jihad. In one exchange a young man, advised to buy new binoculars, naively asks if eBay will deliver.
The British contingent says their numbers are increasing daily and social networking sites are helping to organise the influx into Syria.
They know that returning to their families in the UK will be extremely difficult from now on, but in reality they probably won’t get the chance – the fighting footsoldier’s life expectancy in Syria is very short once serious combat begins.
This committed group buck many stereotypes used to describe the Islamist fighters in Syria.
Whether anyone agrees or disagrees with them is not in itself relevant, not yet at least, as this is the first time we have ever heard them speak.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Syria is the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world. There are thousands of foreign fighters in Syria, including large numbers of Europeans, gaining combat experience and forging connections with extremists.
“Some people who travel from the UK to Syria for jihadist fighting will pose a security threat when they return. We are concerned that Al-Qaeda affiliates such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al Nusrah Front (ANF) are now able to operate in the large areas of ungoverned space that have been created by the conflict.
“We are aware of at least 200 UK-linked individuals of concern who have travelled to Syria, but the true number is likely to be higher”.
A young British man who boasted of fighting ‘5-star jihad’ in Syria has been killed by Syrian Arab Army
Ifthekar Jaman, 23, died at the weekend in a battlefield clash 2,000 miles from his Hampshire home.
He was one of an estimated 350 British men to have taken up arms with Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria – where they are known as British Kataa’ib, meaning British Brigade.
Speaking a month ago, Jaman declared he was ready to die as a martyr, vowing: ‘I don’t plan to come back. Life is for the hereafter… it’s an eternal paradise so the sacrifice is small.’
He also urged fellow Britons to join him, using his Twitter account to glory in his hate-filled missions.
He described fighting in Syria as ‘5-star jihad’ because of its ‘relaxing’ nature.
Recent photographs show Jaman – a supporter of fanatical British cleric Anjem Choudary – apparently manning armed checkpoints in the Middle Eastern war zone.
Yesterday his parents were too upset to speak at their £190,000 three-bedroom terrace house in Southsea, but his younger brother Mustakim Jaman confirmed he had died on Saturday night and that his distraught family had been informed on Sunday.
He said: ‘We are in complete shock. We need time to process this, it is a lot for us to take in.’
Jaman, was who born in Portsmouth and attended local schools, left the UK earlier this year after telling his parents he was going to study in Turkey, but he slipped across the border to Syria on May 14.
He joined ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), a notorious group of Al Qaeda extremists waging jihad against the Syrian government.
The last known pictures of him, circulated online at the start of this month, show Jaman and another Briton armed with AK-47 assault rifles and stopping vehicles at a dust-blown checkpoint.
Jaman – known in Syria as Abu Abdur Rahman Al-Britani – used his Twitter page to glorify the lifestyle and criticise British parents who tried to stop their children travelling to Syria.
He wrote on October 8: ‘These days, parents are more proud of their offspring getting bank jobs rather than joining the Mujahidoon.’
On October 2, Jaman revealed: ‘There are people who think that the Jihad in Syria is 24/7 fighting but it’s much more relaxed than that. They’re calling it a 5 star Jihad.’
The exact circumstances of Jaman’s death are unknown, but last night he was described as a martyr in a series of posts on social media, including on Facebook.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: ‘We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Syria.’
The United Nations estimates that over 120,000 people have been killed in two and a half years of civil war in Syria
Syrian Breaking News Local Agencies