British extremists in Syria are being trained to carry out suicide attacks on their return to the UK, an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighter captured by Kurdish forces claims.
The fighter told his captors that many European extremists were sent to the shadowy al-Kharsa Brigade upon arrival in Syria, where they would undertake months of arduous training in preparation for attacks, according to a report by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times newspaper.
“It takes seven months to be trained in al-Kharsa brigade,” the fighter reportedly said under interrogation.
“It is very hard. Every European who crosses the border to Syria, they are offered [the opportunity] to join. If 20 start the training, only five finish it. Then after that they go back to Europe and attack.”
The fighter claimed that during his two years in IS territory, he was aware that 50 European extremists from countries like Britain, Germany, and France had returned to their home countries.
The fighter said that training involved ideological indoctrination, bomb making and arduous physical fitness training.
Despite territorial losses for IS in Iraq, the individual claimed the brigade was active as recently as February and that cells remained intact in Europe.
He claimed that the Paris attack in 2015 and the Brussels attack in 2016 were both carried out by al-Kharsa trained extremists.
“The attacks that happened in Paris and Brussels, the attackers were trained by them and left from Syria to Europe,” he said.
He also explained details of the training and deployment process.
“Sometimes there are foreigners who come to Syria and have training for specific missions. Then they do the attacks alone.”
He also said that not being able to reach IS territory does not rule out a fighter becoming a bomber.
“Others are sleeper cells in Europe who want to join Daesh [ISIS] here, but can’t. They stay in their countries and contact [IS]. Then they talk, and when they are ready they do the bombings.”
He said that trained bombers would be smuggled from northwestern Syria into Turkey, where they were delivered to clandestine cells and furnished with fake passports before being sent back into Europe.
The fighter seemed to have acquired some of his information from the brother of a Syrian woman he married upon arrival in IS territory. He claims the brother-in-law was a high-ranking commander.