British rebel fighter offers rare insight into daily life of foreign jihadists

Abu Abdullah has appeared in a number of similar videos urging British muslims to join him

Richard Hall
Sunday 20 April 2014 15:56

Like a surreal version of the hit MTV series 'Cribs', a British citizen who fights with the rebels in Syria has released a video tour of the home he shares with fellow fighters in the war-torn country.

With security services in the UK growing increasingly concerned about the number of Britons travelling to join extremist groups in Syria, the video offers a unique insight into the daily lives of those who have already made the journey.

"Today we wanted to show you the basic living of the brothers in this base," says the man, known by the nom de guerre Abu Abdullah. "There has been a lot of talk of this so-called five-star jihad. And the way the mujahedeen have been living in these villas and these mansions and cupboards full of sweets. But it is far from that."

Abu Abdullah, thought to be a member of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has appeared in a number of similar videos in which he calls for British Muslims to join him in Syria.

Whereas much of the output from jihadist organisations has sought to glamorise the life of a rebel fighter, Abu Abdullah's video appears aimed at presenting a more realistic portrayal of the difficulties they face.

"This is the room where the mujahedeen sleep," he says to camera, mirroring the style of the long-running MTV show that sees celebrities invite the viewer on a tour of their home. "It's just basic living, you've got your mattresses here where six or seven brothers sleep on the floor. The majority of the time we don’t have electricity."

"It's not the five-star that people are saying," he adds. "This boiler doesn't work. We only use cold water."

This latest video is part of a wider trend of extremist groups in Syria using social media to promote their cause and encourage others to join the three-years-long civil war. On Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, rebel groups with slick media operations post photographs and videos of their exploits on the battlefield and proudly display their weapons.

The video was uploaded by a group calling itself Rayat al Tawheed (Banner of God), which claims to be the English-language media arm of ISIS.

ISIS - which was formerly affiliated with al-Qa'ida until the latter dissociated itself from the group - is dominated by foreign fighters who believe in the creation of an Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The group operates across the borders of Syria and Iraq and has attracted Islamic extremists from all over the world to its cause. It has also been blamed for a host of atrocities against its rivals.

The total number of British participants in the conflict is estimated to be in the "hundreds", with as many as 20 thought to have died in the fighting. Charles Farr, the Home Office's terror chief, warned recently that Brits travelling to Syria represented the "the biggest challenge" to the security services since the 2001 Twin Tower attacks.

As ISIS and other jihadist groups have come under greater pressure from other rebels, many foreign fighters have fled Syria and returned to their country of origin. Senior security officials have said that around 250 British "extremist tourists" have returned home, and are now suspected of wanting to carry out attacks here. Scotland Yard revealed earlier this year that Syria-related terrorism arrests are soaring with 16 so far this year, compared with 24 for all of 2013.

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