A British fanatic in Syria has warned would-be jihadists that fighting in the war-torn country is “more difficult than people think”.
The unidentified man said being a Muslim warrior was more than just putting on a “tactical vest and grab a Kalashnikov and get a big beard”.
He also attacked the image that Syria was a “five star jihad” following reports by other fanatics that boasted of staying in villas and mansions.
The warning raises the prospect that hundreds of Britons who are believed to have returned to the UK may have found it too hard in Syria and now plan to carry out attacks here instead. It is feared as many as 250 British jihadists are now back in the UK having fought in Syria.
In a video posted on You Tube, the man, who speaks with a strong British accent, is seen wearing a balaclava and holding an automatic rifle. He warns others: "It is not easy to stand in front of a tank while it launches at you.
“Fighting for real is more difficult than people think. It's not as easy as pulling out your nine-millimetre on a back road on the streets of London and blasting a guy with it (knowing) that he's not going to blast you back.”
He adds: “The status of a mujtahid is heavy. When you come to these lands, you act the Islam, you are the Islam that people want to see and know. “So you don't just come here and put on a tactical vest and grab a Kalashnikov and get a big beard and that's it.
“Brothers, please … it's a career it's life, it's not just something you put on Facebook. Don't think you are coming to a road that is planted with roses and pebbles and as people have seen recently villas and mansions and things like that."
It is feared that up to 500 Britons have travelled to Syria to fight, many with extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda and other terror organisations.
A significant part of MI5’s works is now taken up dealing with threat posed by those travelling to or returning from Syria and presenting a risk here.
James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister, warned at the weekend that Britain faced a "significant and growing" threat from up to 250 jihadists who went to train and fight there and are now believed to be back home.
He said the security services were facing a "big problem" for the "foreseeable future" from "jihad tourists". MI5 and police had stopped one serious plot last autumn involving a cell of "returnee" jihadists planning a "Mumbai – style" gun attack in central London.
A British official yesterday said the flow of extremists between Britain and Syria was of “great concern”. But he also accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of deliberately helping radical groups linked to al-Qaeda to come to the forefront of Syria’s civil war.
Mr Assad’s history of cooperation with al-Qaeda went back to 2005 and 2006 when he allowed its fighters to enter Iraq across Syrian territory. "The regime has had a relationship with al-Qaeda since 2006,” said the official.
The evidence suggested that Mr Assad has forged links with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat Al-Nusra, two al-Qaeda linked groups, he added.
Mr Assad has released hundreds of radical jihadists from Syria’s jails, with several of them going on to assume leading positions in both of these movements.
The Syrian air force has concentrated its raids on the moderate opposition, giving al-Qaeda’s allies a degree of immunity from attack.
In addition, the extremists have been able to export oil from areas they control using transit routes across regime-held territory.
"There is a steady stream of credible reporting from Syrian groups on the ground of – at the very least – collusion between the regime and extremist groups,” said the official.
By Tom Whitehead, Richard Spencer and David Blair