British SAS officers in training. Photo: Wikimedia commons

MORE than 100 ex-Special Forces troops were last night being rushed to Spain by tour operators as fears grew of an Islamic State terror attack on British holidaymakers.

The elite force will patrol beaches and hotel complexes disguised as tourists in a bid to prevent jihadis killing defenceless sun-seekers.

It is understood the dramatic move came after intelligence was received that the terror group intended to massacre UK tourists in a repeat of the 2015 attack in Tunisia, when 30 British holidaymakers died.

The Mail on Sunday understands that the threat is against tourists in mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

The hand-picked British security teams all have expertise and Special Forces experience in covert surveillance. Their role is to mingle among holidaymakers and spot terrorists before they strike. They have been equipped with special hidden cameras and will liaise directly with Spanish police, according to a source.

Last night a security source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Spain has been singled out as a target by the jihadis, it is wide open to an attack now that security in the UK has been tightened.

‘This is a very secretive mission because tour operators don’t want to spread panic and reduce their business. The ex-troops will be looking out for any suspicious activity which might indicate that terrorists are planning an attack.

‘You don’t get a softer target than British tourists lying in the sun.’

The Mail on Sunday understands that, following the Manchester Arena attack on Monday night, a leading British private security company was approached by tour operators who wanted to hire teams of surveillance experts.

The security company then selected former soldiers based on their experience of undercover operations. They were offered £500 per day to fly to some of the most popular destinations for British tourists. These hot spots are expected to be packed with thousands of British families over the bank holiday weekend and during this week’s school half-term break.

The security teams, who are watching major hotels and beaches, have been given strict rules of engagement. A source said: ‘They must not intervene themselves. Instead they will be given points of contact in the Spanish police to report their findings to. Local police officers will make arrests.

‘The security teams won’t be armed either but they will be equipped with hidden cameras to record suspects. Using footage it might be possible to identify terrorists using facial recognition technology.’

The Mail on Sunday has been told that teams of up to 12 will watch three or four hotels and nearby beaches in a given area before moving to another location.

Last night, British tourists in Benidorm had mixed feelings about the arrival of the elite surveillance teams. Martha Cowan, from Devon, said: ‘We definitely feel more on edge right now. I would wholeheartedly welcome more security here.’

But Jayne Dickinson, 37, from Sheffield, said: ‘Extra security would actually make me really nervous because I would suddenly think they knew something was about to happen.

‘My friend’s son was at the Ariana Grande concert so to be honest it’s been playing on my mind all week.’

Earlier this year, former Metropolitan Police counter-terror chief David Videcette warned that an attack on areas such as the Costa Brava and the Costa Del Sol was ‘very possible’. IS has also threatened to launch attacks in Spain in a series of propaganda videos.

Last night a Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘This is a decision for tour operators and hotel chains if they feel the need to improve their security. Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Spain.’

It is not clear which tour operators are behind the operation.

Two of the UK’s biggest, Thomas Cook and Thomson, told The Mail on Sunday they were not aware of the move.

Source: Daily Mail