The Daily Mail is reporting that the United States has sent a special unit of CIA officers to the UK, passing over UK agencies MI5 and MI6, in order to investigate terrorist “breeding grounds” in the nation from which it is believed many jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria today originated.
According to the newspaper, the unit is specialized in radical Islamist terrorism and is currently on a “lone wolf” mission in the UK. The mission will require them to “interrogate senior security experts about the radicalisation of UK Muslims.” The paper notes that such a mission is unusual, as the United States tends to request intelligence from UK agencies rather that override them and seek the intelligence themselves. The United States is extremely concerned that the influence of the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) could destabilize some parts of the UK.
The news comes as the UK Telegraph reports that the United States is also considering tightening airport security for flights from the UK, in an attempt to prevent jihadists using UK passports from traveling freely to the United States. President Obama said in an interview with NBC yesterday that American authorities are concerned that jihadists returning from Syria or Iraq may use their British passports to travel to America. “We’ve seen Europeans who are sympathetic to their cause traveling into Syria and now may travel into Iraq, getting battle-hardened. Then they come back,” he explained.
The Telegraph notes that additional security measures could include an increase in random security checks or specific targeting of travelers that may be more likely to pose a threat.
Reports have surfaced that up to 1,500 of ISIS’s fighters in the region could have come from the UK, many of them born in Britain. Most ISIS fighters–and the target audience from jihadi recruitment–are young men living in the West who are Muslim and disenchanted with life in their countries. Some have attempted to return to the UK after fighting in Iraq and Syria and surviving. Some have gone so far as to publicize their deaths through ISIS’s social media outlets only to use that alleged death to sneak back into the UK, and potentially to other countries. “We cannot afford to have Islamist extremists coming home with British passports, having waged successful jihad across the Middle East… that is why it is absolutely imperative that Isis is defeated,” said former UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox this month.