De Peet Journal came aware that in the past 48 hours a ‘significant force’ of SAS soldiers and signallers have deployed to northern Iraq, joining Iraqi and Kurdish units fighting IS. They have separated into four-man teams and are accompanying local troops in an attempt to capture British jihadis, identify them and establish links to Jihadi John.
A key suspect is 23-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who until a year ago lived with his family in their £1m home in the affluent London area of Maida Vale, but recently appeared on social media grasping a severed head, an anonymous government source told The Sunday Times. Once a British jihadi is in custody, samples will be taken of the suspect’s blood and DNA – vital in the case of UK extremists because the information can be matched to medical records. For identification purposes, a photograph is also taken of the iris – the visible coloured ring around the pupil – which is unique.
One SAS source said: ‘It is possible to identify British jihadis on the battlefield by intercepting their radio messages. When they’re captured by the Iraqis or Kurds we’ll take a close interest in their questioning.
‘Gathering information such as their blood group and DNA, as well as voice recordings in either Arabic or English, will help us zero in on Jihadi John because it can be compared with existing data.’
From the battleground this information is sent via a portable satellite manned by a soldier from 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron, who beams it to a spy plane, such as the ‘Rivet Joint’ aircraft, circling overhead. Inside Rivet Joint, a 17-man team processes the information and sends it back to GCHQ, the Government’s secret communications headquarters at Cheltenham. Here it is analysed and matched against records of British jihadis believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, before ‘feedback information’ is sent to SAS teams.
GCHQ’s library is believed to include recordings of thousands of voices taken from phone and radio intercepts. Meanwhile, on the Turkish-Syrian border, SRR soldiers fly drones into IS strongholds and give live details of their movements.
Such a detailed study of their bases is intended to prevent a repeat of the US Special Forces mission last month which failed to find any hostages.
American Delta Force troops raided an IS base at Uqayrishah in northern Syria, but were forced to retreat after a gun battle with terrorists.
A source added: ‘The SRR is using strategic drones, which provide an overview of the ground, and tactical drones which can look over the walls of buildings and provide sharp pictures of suspects’ faces. ‘The ground inside Syria and Iraq is well known to British Special Forces after the previous Gulf wars. In 2008, the SAS destroyed the Al Qaeda-Iraq leadership and we’re confident we can do the same to IS.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on Special Forces operations.