Islamic State is now focused on urging British would-be recruits to carry out “lone wolf” attacks in the UK instead of travelling to fight in Syria, Sky News has learned.
Fictional characters created online by Sky with an undercover freelance journalist were sent terror guidebooks by senior jihadists in Syria – including advice on raising funds and making weapons.
And we were told IS already has a number of potential bombers in the UK – some of whom have been trained in Syria and are ready to attack.
By posing on Twitter and in chatrooms as two individuals committed to jihad – one male, one female – we have gained a disturbing new insight into the extremists’ tactics.
The chatter never stops. Sometimes within the millions of messages you come across something that shocks.
One jihadist told us that this Saturday’s VJ commemorations involving the Queen and the Royal Family were a target.
The online posts by our characters over the past four months attracted the attention of two major players in Islamic State’s so-called cyber caliphate.
One of them is Junaid Hussain, a 21-year-old hacker-turned-jihadist from Birmingham, who runs the IS information and recruitment arm from Syria.
He has been identified by the US Secret Service as a top-five target for elimination by drone strike.
His wife, Sally Jones, a former punk from Chatham, Kent, is also in Syria working alongside Hussain in Raqqa but dealing with female IS-supporting jihadists.
From the start it became clear that IS wants its recruits to attack the UK and not travel to their so-called caliphate.
We can reveal that this is an entirely new tactic by IS – originally they called for volunteers to join them in Syria.
Sending us detailed guidebooks, they urged our fictional characters to form gangs and to create a British Islamic State over a long period.
This strategy is a major departure.
Communicating on encrypted messaging sites, a second conversation started with another of our characters, an 18-year-old girl.
Jones quickly asked our character what she wanted to do in the UK – to cut a head off or blow up a bomb.
Assuring us she would guide us through the making of the bomb, she explained what we would need, directing us to get the material and to show her a receipt with a date.
She was checking to see if we were authentic.
Sensing our character’s worries, Jones took an unusual step to reassure us.
She revealed she had another potential bomber in Scotland and two others who had so far failed to attack.
It was Jones who sent us the details of the plot to attack the VJ commemorations.
With one or even three potential real bombers at large we informed the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terror branch.
This information was later reported by a Sunday newspaper.
The police deny involvement in that, while encouraging us to continue our investigation.
We wanted more information on potential attacks in the UK so I took the tried and tested jihadi route through Istanbul to the Turkish Arabic city of Urfa, which lies near the Syrian border.
Our IS contacts confirmed the group’s new policy for British and European jihadists is to stay in their countries.
But I was told there were specific developments and needed to meet at a secret location – information I would only get on arrival.
As we set out for the meeting we were followed by Turkish undercover police.
Our contacts directed us to the city’s ancient souk by foot with the instruction to lose our tail.
Having eluded the authorities I was introduced to a man who was part of IS internal security for more than a year-and-a-half.
They have been described as the equivalent of the Gestapo – hardcore, bloodthirsty and dangerous. They are feared and kill at will.
His job was to oversee VIP foreign jihadists as they underwent training for specific missions outside Syria and Iraq.
He claimed four or five of them were English. More importantly he says they completed training and have returned to Britain to carry out an attack.
Asked if the training was to carry out a variety of different terror attacks, he was adamant it was.
“Yes, yes, yes everything, all of this – using the Kalashnikov, the pistol, the bomb, grenades and other things,” he said.
“They have lessons after training that last an hour then they leave.
“We don’t see too much, we are there for their protection; seeing what they are actually doing or what they are talking about is impossible, it is forbidden.”
Already stretched, British security services cannot afford to ignore the possibility that seven bombers could be operating in the UK.
Whether they are real or not is impossible to know, but Jones now believes there is an eighth – our character.
Until this week our communications have continued. Her final message? A clear and cold blooded: “Do it.” (Sky News)