Extremist IS recruiters grooming bombers ‘like paedophiles’

Talha Asmal
Talha Asmal

Extremist recruiters have been likened to paedophiles after online grooming was blamed for luring Britain's youngest suicide bomber into the clutches of Islamic State (IS).

Talha Asmal, 17, reportedly detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives while fighting for the group in Iraq.

Meanwhile, separate reports emerged that British Muslim convert Thomas Evans is believed to have died fighting in Kenya fighting for extremist group Al Shabaab.

Talha's family said that despite him never exhibiting any extreme or radical views, he had been exploited by extremists on the internet "in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him".

Qari Asim, an imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said recruitment was mainly taking place online.

"The perpetrators are pretty much acting like paedophiles, they groom these young individuals over time - radicalisation isn't an overnight process," he told the BBC.

"They prey on these vulnerable young people and brainwash them, and religion is a unique passion so they tend to use religion to brainwash these young individuals for their own political aims and gains."

Police and politicians have repeatedly raised warnings about the issue of online grooming.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the country's most senior police officer, spoke today of the varied nature of the threat faced by the UK.

Speaking ahead of a police counter-terrorism conference, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said: "Today's terrorist may of course be a hardened member of an organised terrorist 'cell', but may very well also be a lone disaffected youth radicalised by extremist material on his home computer.

"Some of those travelling to Syria are fulfilling a long-standing Jihadi ambition. But others who travel to Syria are youngsters fooled by propaganda - out of their depth and running out of time.

"The police must find a way to deal with both."

Talha's death has not yet been officially confirmed, but his parents said photographs showing a youth purportedly named Abu Yusuf Al Britany appeared to depict their son.

He is alleged to have fled his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in March, to join IS - also known as Isis or Isil. The town was previously embroiled in Islamist extremism when it emerged as the home of Mohammed Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the July 7 attacks in London.

Unbeknown to them and completely against their will, Talha's family said he travelled to Iraq via Turkey and fell under the spell of Isis handlers who are "too cowardly to do their own dirty work".