UK Syria fighters: Details continue to emerge

Details are emerging of two British Muslims who appear in an apparent recruitment video for jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

One of the men is 20-year-old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff.

His friend Nasser Muthana, also 20 and from Cardiff, has also been identified. His father said he was “heartbroken”.

The video, which cannot be verified, was posted by online accounts linked to militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Isis has a presence in Syria and is engaged in fierce fighting with Iraqi government forces.

‘Betrayed Britain’

In the video Reyaad Khan, who went to Cantonian High School and St David’s Catholic College in Cardiff, is seen holding a gun and sitting next to his friend Nasser Muthana.

“Start Quote

My sons have betrayed their family and betrayed their country which is Britain”

Ahmed Muthana

Nasser Muthana – who has been offered places to study medicine by four universities – appears in the footage, using the name Abu Muthanna al-Yemen and urging others to fight in Syria and Iraq.

His father, Ahmed Muthana, said his son – who he described as quiet, well-educated and intelligent – had left the UK to fight in Syria in November.

At the time, his older son said he was going to Leicester or Shrewsbury to study, he said.

“I don’t think that’s Nasser talking, it’s someone else is teaching him to talk like this because the attitude of Nasser is 100% completely different,” said Ahmed Muthana.

He also told the BBC that his 17-year-old son Aseel had travelled to the country in February.

The electronics engineer, who has two other sons, aged 23 and 10, said police took computers and mobile phones from the family home in Butetown, Cardiff, after he disappeared.

Aseel (l) and Nasser Muthana
Aseel Muthana (left) and his older brother Nasser (right)

“They have never told us if they found anything on them. But when I saw my sons on their computers they would be watching films or wrestling which they very interested in,” he said.

His sons had “betrayed their family and betrayed their country which is Britain” and he feared they would “come back to me in a coffin”, he added.

Meanwhile, the mother of Reyaad Khan said she believed her son had been brainwashed and appealed for him to come home.

“Reyaad, please come back home,” she told Sky News.

“I’m dying for you. You’re my only son. Please come home Reyaad. Please send me son back home. He’s my one and only son. I and my family need him back.”

She added that she was “absolutely shocked and devastated”.

Her son’s Facebook page revealed that he had fairly typical interests for a young man of his age, including computer games, Chelsea Football Club and his family’s new pet kitten.

However, it also shows that in 2012 he became angry about an online video which lampooned Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

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Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis)

Isis fighters have been pushing towards Iraq’s capital, Baghdad

Isis grew out of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq

  • Estimated 10,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • Joined in its offensives by other Sunni militant groups, including Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and disaffected Sunni tribal fighters
  • Exploits standoff between Iraqi government and the minority Sunni Arab community, which complains that Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is monopolising power
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an obscure figure regarded as a battlefield commander and tactician

Sheikh Zane Abdo, from South Wales Islamic Centre, says it is “quite obvious” there is a problem with extremist views in Cardiff

Zane Abdo, imam of the South Wales Islamic Centre, said he knew the families of both Cardiff men that appeared in the video, but the men didn’t attend his classes or sermons.

“They went though a phase of practising their faith a lot more outwardly, but they were very normal boys,” he said.

He said he believed the men had been groomed.

“These are young men who are very sincere, they want to do something good. But you can be sincere and you can be sincerely deluded in what you want to do, and they have been groomed to think a particular way.”

The imam also told the BBC he had spoken about them in his sermons.

“I spoke about the older one going abroad in a sermon, seven months before the media heard anything, saying it was wrong. When the younger one went, I myself gave a more explicit sermon based on scriptures, of why this is wrong,” he said.

Have you been affected by the issues raised in this story? You can send us your experiences by emailinghaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk using the subject line “Isis”.

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