London: British extremists with links to the Islamic State (IS) are offering cash payments to teenagers in the UK to travel to join terrorists and fight for the militant group that has seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

A three-month undercover operation by ‘The Times’ involved reporters posing as two schoolgirls and unearthed evidence of a cell to groom and recruit British Muslims as young as 17 to fight in foreign countries. “The discoveries offer a rare insight into a rampant online world in which extremists effortlessly sidestep social media companies’ attempts to block and censor them,” the paper said, adding that Britain’s counter-terrorism officers were using its findings as part of their investigations.

One of ‘The Times’ teams, which is not being named for security reasons, posed as a 17-year-old girl from east London was inundated with approaches and exposed to the full force of extremist propaganda before making contact via Twitter with a hardline jihadist calling himself Abu Abbas al-Lubnani. When Aisha expressed an interest in running away to live in IS territory, he offered to provide cash via an intermediary in the UK.

To prove his identity, an image was sent to Aisha that had been taken outside the Islamic Court in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, northern Syria, in which a masked man with a rifle is clutching a handwritten message bearing the name from her Twitter

profile.

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