West Yorkshire teenager Talha Asmal has been confirmed to be the UK’s youngest ever Islamic State (IS) recruit to lose his life during a suicide bombing attack. Reports state that 17-year-old Asmal was one of four attackers that took their own lives in an attempt to attack forces near an oil refinery south of Baiji, Iraq.
Social media confirms Asmal’s links to extremist group, Islamic State, where he operated under the fake name of Abu Yusuf al-Britani, a connection that ultimately lead him to take part in the attack. Asmal is the second teenager to have been recruited from the Muslim community of West Yorkshire – Islamic State recruit Hasib Hussein was 18-years-old when he took part in the London bombing on July 7, 2005, where he took his own life by detonating explosives strapped to his backpack on a public bus serive, No. 30.
Family of Islamic State convert Asmal spoke out in their grief of having lost the 17-year-old boy. “He never harboured any ill will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind,” they explained, describing Talha to be a “loving, kind, caring and affable teenager.”
“Talha’s tender years and naivety were it seems 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.”
Talha Asmal is just one in a long line of particularly vulnerable youths taken in by the online grooming methods of Islamic State, responsible for occupying large districts in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq. Nearing 700 Britons have been persuaded to join terrorist organizations in order to support or take part in jihadi attacks, under regimes similar to Islamic State, throughout Western Asia.
Counter-extremism organisation Quillaim Foundation representative Charlie Winter explained how the majority of recruitment for these youths is through online grooming and a deliberate search for those vulnerable enough to be taken in by the toxic ideologies of Islamic State.
“People contacting other individuals over the internet – vulnerable individuals, interested individuals – and then telling them, promising them they can have a life in this Utopian state, promising them paradise,” Winters described. “To most people it doesn’t really resonate but to individuals who are particularly vulnerable to this kind of thing, it does.”
[Image credit: Talha Asmal via Twitter]