UK Launches Mission to Find ISIS Executioner

The Daily Mail reports Britain's elite members of the Special Air Services (SAS) have been sent to the Middle East to locate the black-clad ISIS executioner in the hostage killing videos of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning (who also appeared in execution videos of Americans John Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently threatened Peter Kassig.) It is reportedly the SAS' largest mission since 9/11.

In August, the British press reported the formation of a joint task force of the SAS and US Navy Seals to take out ISIS leadership.

Elite British and US special forces troops are forming a hunter killer unit called Task Force Black – its orders: “Smash the Islamic State.”


The undercover warriors will aim to “cut the head off the snake” by hitting the command structure of the Islamist terror group responsible for a trail of atrocities across Iraq and Syria, reports the Sunday People.

...British special forces will work with America’s Delta Force and Seal Team 6. The move sees a rebirth of top secret Task Force Black, which helped defeat al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq.

The article goes on to quote an unnamed source:

“We need to go into Syria and Iraq and kill as many IS members as we can. You can’t ­negotiate with these people.

Today, the (usually inaccurate)pro-Iraqi news service reported the Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden arrived in Baghdad last week as part of a covert mission to take out ISIS leadership. The pro-Iraqi news service is so unreliable I initially dismissed the story entirely.

But after reading the Daily Mail article, which contains the same time frame for the deployment of UK and US forces and some similar details as the reported Baghdad operation, and then recounts today's news about a U.S. strike aimed at ISIS leadership in Iraq, I am wondering whether the UK SAS mission isn't actually part of a joint mission with the U.S., to target ISIS leaders and the hostage holders in both countries.

From the Iraqi News article:

An Iraqi military official, who holds the rank of Brigadier General in the Presidency of the Army Staff, explained that the number of team members is 16 American officers, 7 elements arrived to Baghdad. They began to collect information and the establishment of an extensive database as well as recruiting local Iraqis from tribal members and citizens in the areas where ISIS exists. It is expected the arrival of the others, according to leaks obtained by the army troops.

According to the officer, who asked not to be named, this team works ” within an isolated circle away from the American and Iraqi army. They have visited 3 locations outside Baghdad since their arrival last week.”

If only 9 of the 16 U.S. team members are in Baghdad, with an unspecified number expected to arrive there soon, there may be some who have teamed with the U.K. mission aimed at ISIS in Syria -- perhaps participating in the UK "spy plane" surveillance.

From the Daily Mail report:

Official Government sources confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that SAS soldiers flew to a secret base in the Middle East last week. Travelling in groups of three and four, the crack troops boarded commercial flights dressed in civilian clothes.

They mingled with unsuspecting businessmen and tourists to maintain operational security.
After weeks of intense preparation at the regiment’s barracks in Hereford, the elite soldiers are now waiting for the order to strike Islamic State targets.

The Mail says it agreed not to provide details of the mission, but that it can reveal the following:

However, we can reveal that the soldiers are sharing a remote desert location with British intelligence agents and communications experts who are understood to be tracking Jihadi John’s movements and also intercepting IS radio and telephone messages.

The remote desert location may or may not be in Syria, but is "within striking distance."

At the desert base, which is within striking distance of IS targets in Syria, the SAS troops are now carrying out final rehearsals for a raid and are using the most sophisticated weapons available to the British Army. In addition to this arsenal, the SAS troopers are backed up by teams from 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron who are equipped with mobile satellites.

The satellites are expected to reveal the whereabouts of the ISIS executioner and hostages, which will then be passed on to SAS headquarters in Britain. In addition,

The SAS troops are also supported by a 17-man crew aboard a British spy plane called ‘Rivet Joint’. The crew’s job is to record conversations between jihadis as the aircraft circles thousands of feet above the battlefield. These intercepts are fed to translators working with the SAS and are sent back to GCHQ, the Government’s secret communications headquarters. The messages between terrorists are matched against records of British jihadis believed to be fighting in Syria.

Unmanned drones are also being used:

The SAS is also rehearsing raids using video footage provided by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones. These aircraft, which can fly for up to 24 hours and can climb to an altitude of 18,000ft, fly over IS strongholds and provide up-to-the-second pictures of the enemy’s hideouts. This live information will play a vital role in any British Special Forces operation to strike Jihadi John and rescue the hostages.

Does the 17 man crew include FBI agents? Are U.S. owned drones also being used in the UK SAS effort? In September, the FBI said its agents had identified the executioner. The Daily Mail reported at the time:

US spy planes are flying above Britain monitoring telephone and computer signals in a bid to track down Jihadi John and those who are communicating with him. The aircraft, manned by British pilots and carrying FBI agents, are equipped with technology so advanced they can detect heat coming off a keyboard when a button is pressed. (my emphasis)

Comey said at the time the U.S. was hard at work trying to identify the person with the Canadian or American accent that appeared in the Flames of War video segment about the ISIS seizure of Division 93 in Raqqa, Syria. In the segment, a Syrian soldier is forced to dig his own grave and the ISIS fighter, and several others, then shoot and kill a bunch of kneeling Syrian soldiers who had initally escaped the raid.

It makes sense that the U.S., in its hunt for the ISIS executioner of Foley and Sotloff, who recently threatened Peter Kassig, as well as the American or Canadian killer in Raqqa, is part of this new UK SAS Syria mission. And that as an intelligence and kill mission it's being operated separately from other military operations which are designed to "advise and train" Iraqi forces.

The Mail says the Prime Minister would have to approve any SAS mission inside Syria, but quotes him as saying he might do so without waiting for Parliament's approval.

‘I very clearly reserve the position that if you need to act immediately, either to secure a vital British interest or to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, you would act first and go to then the House of Commons afterwards.’

The Mail also cites the prior failed raid to rescue Foley, and characterizes it as a joint UK-US mission in which the SAS participated.

It is believed that there has been only one attempt by international troops to target Jihadi John. Following Mr Foley’s death, it emerged that US Special Forces had previously launched a failed raid on an IS stronghold where it was thought the terrorist was holding him. However, when the troops from the elite Delta Force unit arrived, the IS commanders and their captives had already fled.

I think Obama may be doing more than meets the eye with respect to ISIS. He doesn't want the last two years of his presidency or his legacy defined by ISIS. If he can take out ISIS leaders in Iraq and the hostage killers in Syria with a one- two punch of covert kill missions in both places, he's going to jump at the chance. Iraq will still be a problem, but it's an inherited problem, and it's one he just needs to keep to a simmer instead of a boil, and then he can pass it on to the next President.

What I don't find acceptable is the increasing use of kill missions and the secrecy that surrounds them. The public, fed by the rhetoric of (mostly)Republican political opportunists, thinks the issue is ground troops vs. no ground troops. Even the Pentagon acknowledges air strikes and U.S. ground troops wouldn't succeed in ridding Iraq and Syria of religious extremists. The bigger issue to me is executive authority to conduct secret kill missions and drone attacks without oversight, and the massive surveillance tools available and employed to do so. Edward Snowden's leaks notwithstanding, I don't think the public has any idea of the extent of the government's extra-judicial surveillance capabilities and operations, or how many non-terrorists are caught in the dragnet.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Get your own ISIS Hunting Kit (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 08:16:34 AM EST
    For only $470.65 you too can purchase your own ISIS Hunting Kit. This is a item for sale and not a skit from SNL or from the Onion. It includes such goodies as a Go Fck Yourself Patch and for only $6.more you can purchase a Pork Eating Crusader Patch.

    I prefer my ninja fishing outfit... (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by fishcamp on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 09:35:37 AM EST
    Yes, but........ (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by MO Blue on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 09:51:20 AM EST
    Do you have an official ninja fishing patch? ;oD

    Say what? (none / 0) (#1)
    by unitron on Sat Nov 08, 2014 at 11:48:04 PM EST

    "...technology so advanced they can detect heat coming off a keyboard when a button is pressed."

    Get someone to touch your keyboard.

    Then have them touch your hands and tell you which is warmer.

    I'd think there'd be a masking effect.

    "undercover warriors" (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Nov 09, 2014 at 05:25:34 PM EST
    Gotta wonder what Iraqi idioms sound like spoken with a British accent.

    I didn't mean to sound flippant. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 07:29:11 AM EST
    I wish the hunters all the luck in the world.

    ISIS/ISIL/whatever have shown themselves to be the kind of monsters that only humans are capable of becoming.  

    Their soul brothers in Nigeria just bombed a school full of children, killing at least 48.  Probably to drum up customers for the local madrassas.

    I tend to agree (none / 0) (#5)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 08:18:07 AM EST
    and this from J's post-

    I don't think the public has any idea of the extent of the government's extra-judicial surveillance capabilities and operations, or how many non-terrorists are caught in the dragnet.

    Maybe.  But I actually think there are lots of people who, if anything, have inflated ideas of what they are capable of gotten from popular entertainment, and they are more or less OK with it.
    They may complain about about intrusive surveillance but have come to expect it and expect it to be used to protect them.  
    Sort of a subconscious bargain.   We will see how this goes, if it protects me maybe I can live with it.   That dynamic has not ended well in the past.