The "devastated" family of a teenager from West Yorkshire believed to have become Britain's youngest suicide bomber say they think photos released by Isis are of him.
A young male named as Abu Yusuf al-Britani allegedly detonated explosives fitted to a vehicle in the Iraqi town of Baiji, a statement released by Isis-affiliated social media accounts claimed on Saturday 13 June.
Photos released by the terror organisation shot 'Britani' smiling beside a black Toyota SUV. He appears to be taking orders from a commander.
Four suicide bombers in vehicles packed with explosives hit security forces and the local headquarters of the Shi'ite militias in the area of al-Hijjaj, 10 km (6 miles) to the south of Baiji town, near the refinery, sources at the nearby Tikrit security operations command said.
Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias face Isis on several fronts in Iraq, a major oil producer and OPEC member.
The person pictured in the photo released by Isis is believed to be 17-year-old Talha Asmal, who fled his Dewsbury home in March, allegedly with the intention to join Isis. He boarded a flight to Turkey with his friend Hassan Munshi, who was also 17-years-old at the time. Munshi’s fate remains unknown.
"He never harboured any ill will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind.
"Talha's tender years and naivety were it seems however exploited by persons unknown who, hiding behind the anonymity of the world wide web, targeted and befriended Talha and engaged in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him.
"Whilst there it appears that Talha fell under the spell of individuals who continued to prey on his innocence and vulnerability to the point where if the press reports are accurate he was ordered to his death by so-called Isis handlers and leaders too cowardly to do their own dirty work.
"We are all naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us."
Talha is a family friend of the former Government Minister Shahid Malik. Mr Malik, the former Labour MP for Dewsbury, said it was “disturbing to see how relaxed” the teenager looked in the photographs.
“He looks at peace," he said. "It’s like he’s ready to go and meet his maker. This is a clear indication of just how successful the evil Isis groomers have been in poisoning and brainwashing Talha and kids like him.”
“We must defeat Isis in mosques and communities across the country. This is a generational struggle and everyone must be willing to rise to the challenge. Importantly, it’s a struggle which can only succeed if it is one which is led by Muslims themselves.”
Ancient monuments under Isis threat
Ancient monuments under Isis threat
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The ancient oasis city of Palmyra
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A partial view of the ancient ruins
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The ancient Palmyra theater
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A view of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra
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The Temple of Bel
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Palmyra's famous graves
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The ancient castle
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A sculpture depicting a rich family from the ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra, displayed at the city's museum
Mr Malik said Asmal was “a truly sweet-natured, helpful, respectful and friendly kid”. “It is incredibly difficult to reconcile this Talha with the suicide-bomber at an Iraqi oil installation,” he said.
More than 600 Britons are thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Isis. The UK’s previous youngest suicide bomber was Hasib Hussain, also from West Yorkshire, who was 18 when he took part in the 7/7 attacks in 2005, which killed 52 people and injured more than 770.
West Yorkshire Police said they are aware of the reports but have not publicly confirmed whether Britani is the missing British teenager, the Guardian reported.
Isis statements have named Britani as one of four suicide bombers, all of which were photographed standing beside SUVs. The other three are alleged to be a German, a Palestinian and Kuwaiti.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content