The family of a former public schoolboy killed while fighting for Islamic State have blamed the UK government for making it difficult for young fighters like him to return to Britain.
Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, 20, was said to be desperate to escape the warzone in Syria but was scared of the repercussions awaiting him if he made it back to his home city of Portsmouth.
Last night his devastated family said Hassan, and other fighters like him, would put down their weapons and return to their homes if the threat of being jailed in the UK wasn’t hanging over them.
Scared: Muhammed Mehdi Hassan, 19, had expressed plans to return to Britain over the last few months but had been scared about the repercussions and the threat of prosecution on terror charges, his family said
The aspiring young student’s parents had travelled to Turkey earlier this year to meet him in the hope of bringing him home. But just minutes away from the border, he was stopped from leaving by fellow militants.
His uncle, Muslim Khan, described last night how Hassan’s family discovered that he had died last week fighting in the battle for Kobane after seeing images of his body posted on Twitter.
Mr Khan told ITV News that Hassan’s fate could have been different if the young fighter, who spoke about being trapped in Syria, thought the UK government would be willing to help people like him return to Britain.
‘If the British Government helped them to come back, I think all of them would come back. I believe that,’ Mr Khan said.
‘Lovely’: Hassan’s family said that his fate would have been different if the Government had made it easier to return home after fighting in Syria
‘They want to come back but they are scared. They [the Government] have said if they come [back] they’ll go to prison.’
He appealed to the parents of a group of more than 30 disenchanted British jihadis who want to escape the fighting not to give up in the hope that the Government could change its policy.
Many are unable to leave the warzone amid threats from senior Islamic State figures that they could be beheaded for disloyalty, and if they do escape they face being jailed in the UK.
Mr Khan said: ‘My message to the parents, don’t give up, we will try and maybe the Government will change their policy and they will come back here. Like Mehdi, he was nearly coming and he could not come. It’s bad luck. Don’t give up. Try.’
Hassan’s mother said she feared her son had been radicalised via friends and the internet while spending hours on his laptop after seeing images of the brutality against democracy protesters in Syria.
In an emotional interview with ITV News she said: ‘I had no idea he was thinking of that [jihad]. It was out of his character he would abandon his family and leave like that. He was loving, gentle and a kind boy. People who met him would remember him for manners and etiquette.’
Hassan, who used the ‘battle name’ Abu Dujana, was among a group of friends who called themselves the Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys who travelled to Syria from Portsmouth. He was the fourth of the group to be killed.
His mother described them as normal young people with good educations. She said: ‘Their parents are [as] shocked as I am. Most loved sons – they have beautiful prosperous future ahead of them