The father of an 18-year-old Brighton man killed while fighting alongside his brothers with rebel forces in Syria has said his son was "a martyr" who died "for a just cause".
Abdullah Deghayes, who left the UK for Syria with his 16-year-old brother Jaffar in January, is thought to have been killed in combat within the past few weeks, shortly after his 18th birthday. His older brother, Amer, 20, who is understood to have gone to fight in Syria after joining an aid convoy to the region last year, has also been wounded, the boys' father Abubaker Deghayes said.
Mr Deghayes said that the brothers had gone to Syria "of their own free will" without the consent of their parents, but had not been in contact with any groups encouraging young Muslims to fight in Syria.
Yesterday, the brothers' aunt told of how their mother had been "distraught" to discover that Abdullah and Jaffar had gone missing, later discovering that their passports were gone.
"They are in contact with their mum," Amani Deghayes told The Independent. "Their dad says he has tried speaking to them, that he would tie them up and bring them back if he could."
Abdullah is the nephew of former Guantanomo Bay detainee Omar Deghayes, but Ms Deghayes said that though the brothers' decision to go to Syria had not been influenced by him but was "a symptom the current times".
Speaking outside his home in Brighton yesterday their father said he had "never encouraged" his sons to go and fight but felt "some comfort" knowing Abdullah had fought for a "just cause".
"The cause is to help those who are being bombed daily by Assad and killed by his bombings and air raids and soldiers for nothing except to ask for their freedom," he said. "I hope this was his intention, I hope he is rewarded and I hope he is in peace now."
Friends of Abdullah, who also has a twin brother, a younger brother and an older sister, reacted with shock at the news, with several posting messages on Facebook and Twitter. Ms Amani said that Abdullah had been a "charming, and very spirited" boy who had never appeared have been overtly "political".
"The twins were really into exercise, and bodybuilding, and eating healthily," she said. "I remember they didn't want to eat any chocolate, they were so worried about their diet…He wasn't really a political boy. The twins were always very cheeky….I was really shocked [to hear they had gone to Syria]. He was really fun-loving, social, he had lots of friends."
She said that Abdullah's brother Amer, who was the first of the brothers to fight in Syria, had first gone to Turkey with an aid convoy in September. "Amer was really into his gym and building his muscles. The next thing I knew he was getting involved in serious stuff in Syria."
Amer is understood to have suffered a bullet wound in the stomach in the same battle in which Abdullah was killed. Although the brothers were said to have been in touch with their parents via Facebook, his current condition was not clear yesterday, but their father said that the youngest brother fighting in Syria, 16-year-old Jaffar, was "ok".
In total, it is believed that 400 British nationals have travelled to Syria since conflict broke out in early 2011, and of these 400, it is estimated 20 have died so far.
Omar Deghayes, who is currently in Tripoli, said he had only heard one eyewitness account of what happened to Abdullah.
He said: "Abdullah Deghayes was a young man full of life, he had a bright future ahead, he was just like any 18-year-old, but his heart was different.
"He couldn't sit still watching the news of the gross injustice taking place in Syria.
The Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday reiterated warnings to British citizens not to travel to Syria and said fighters returning to the UK were an "increasing threat to our own national security".
"Where we are aware of people proposing to travel to Syria we can take action about it, including depriving people of their passports, including if they are people who are resident in the UK but not British nationals, the Home Secretary can cancel their leave to remain in the UK," he said.