SBS troops patrol the Channel as IS plots to sneak jihadis into UK
SBS units are patrolling the coast to intercept terrorists being smuggled into the UK.
The alert comes amid intelligence fears that Islamic State is planning to sneak jihadis across the English Channel.
Evidence from the security services indicates “smuggling rings” have already used commercial ships to land extremists at ports. Other groups used small boats to deliver “passengers” to remote coastal areas.
Hundreds of IS fighters who have fled their so-called “caliphate” in Raqqa are reported to be in Europe and plotting to get into the UK.
But new facial recognition technology at UK ports and airports has forced them to look for alternative entry routes.
Now special forces troops have been drafted into the Channel to monitor the hundreds of vessels a day crossing Europe’s busiest waterway.
The 20-strong special forces team is based on trawlers and other ships hired by defence chiefs to avoid attention. They are equipped with specialist radar, night vision equipment and drones fitted with surveillance cameras.
The heavily-armed SBS troops have fast assault craft ready to intercept any targets and can draft in an “on call” reaction unit, which will fly in by Chinook helicopter.
The team – from a force known as M Squadron – deployed on the maritime operation just three weeks ago.
They are also on permanent standby in case extremists hijack a cruise liner out of Southampton, or take over an oil tanker as it approaches fuel terminals around the UK.
A senior security source said: “We are seeking the main players, the money men, those with explosives skills and training that we know are sat in France waiting for the chance to get into the UK.
“As the more overt routes get harder they are looking to stay under the radar.
“We know that some low-level IS supporters have been landed by yacht and that a current method of entry for some immigrants is to pay for passage on commercial shipping, such as a small tanker, and then complete the final part of their journey by small boat to avoid port authorities.”
He added: “The skippers of these vessels are taking a great risk. “We have intelligence from agencies in Europe about people suspected of operating in Iraq and Syria for IS and we constantly monitor their movements.”
Last year armed commandos shocked passengers when they boarded a ferry off Scotland.
The troops scaled the sides of the huge vessel with ladders and ropes as part of an exercise to prove they are ready to counter a terror threat on a ferry.
And in 2001 SAS and SBS soldiers aboard the frigate HMS Sutherland intercepted the cargo ship MV Nisha off the south coast.
The assault came amid fears the ship was carrying “terrorist material”. It turned out to be loaded with sugar.
COAST GUARD: Elite SBS units are monitoring Channel ships