DAMASCUS, SYRIA—Reminiscing about the ruthless terrorist organization’s humble beginnings, members of the Islamic State recounted to reporters Wednesday how they started out as “just a handful of violent extremists” working in a bombed-out garage. “Man, it’s crazy to think that the tiny terror cell operating out of that cramped, rubble-filled space has gone on to become one of the most feared militant groups in the world,” said Caliph Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, explaining that he never could have imagined the global reach his network would achieve back when he was working with late ISIS founder Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi in the garage, which had been damaged by a U.S. Hellfire missile years before. “We would stay up all night talking about how we could establish a totalitarian theocracy, carry out ethnic-cleansing campaigns, and groom child soldiers. We had a lot of fun in those days. No one believed we would innovate and become far more deadly and brutal than all the other Salafi jihadists, but that’s exactly what we did. Ha, I remember how the neighbors used to complain about all the noise from the screaming sex slaves and the beheadings! We’d just laugh.” Al-Qurashi added that the garage experience was ultimately what inspired ISIS to start similar terror-cell incubators in at least 18 countries around the world.