A West Yorkshire teenager is believed to have become Britain’s youngest ever suicide bomber after reportedly blowing himself up in Iraq.
Talha Asmal, 17, was one of four suicide bombers who attacked forces near an oil refinery south of Baiji.
Social media reports linked to Islamic State (IS) said Asmal, going by the name of Abu Yusuf al-Britani, had taken part in the attack.
His family said they were “devastated” at the news.
Asmal, from Dewsbury, would be Britain’s youngest known suicide bomber. Another West Yorkshire teenager, Hasib Hussein, was almost 19 when he blew himself up on a London bus in the 7 July 2005 attacks.
A statement issued by Asmal’s family said: “Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager.
“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.”
IS is a radical Islamist group that has seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq.
At least 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in the area, with the majority joining IS.
Charlie Winter, from the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said British people travelling to join Islamic State were often “groomed” online.
“This is increasingly what we’re seeing,” he said. “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.
“To most people it doesn’t really resonate but to individuals who are particularly vulnerable to this kind of thing, it does.”
Analysis: Tom Symonds – BBC home affairs correspondent
“Al-Britani” is an add-on name often given to British people who have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight with Islamic State.
The British government has a counter-terrorism strategy that is increasingly moving toward trying to stop people going to Syria and Iraq to fight.
It is the new ongoing threat to British security because people who go out to those places may come back and consider carrying out attacks in this country too.
It’s a recipe of attempting to fight radicalisation in this country, and attempting to deal with the influence of radical Islam on this country from people abroad.
West Yorkshire Police said: “The police have been made aware of media reports with regard to the death of a British National in Iraq.
“The identity of the person who has reportedly died has not been confirmed at this time and we are unable to comment further.”
Asmal travelled to Syria with fellow Dewsbury teenager Hassan Munshi.
Munshi’s brother, Hammaad Munshi, was arrested in 2006 at the age of 16 after police found a guide to making napalm on his computer.
He became the youngest person to be convicted under the Terrorism Act.
The Britons taking terror overseas
- Abdul Waheed Majid, from Crawley in West Sussex, was the first British man to carry out a suicide bombing, attacking the city of Aleppo in Syria in February 2014
- Ibrahim al-Mazwagi, 21, was the first reported Briton killed fighting in Syria. The University of Hertfordshire student was shot dead in February 2013
- Abdullah Deghayes travelled to Syria with his 16-year-old brother in January 2014. He was killed three months later soon after his 18th birthday
A BBC News database tracks those who have died, been convicted of offences relating to the conflict or are believed to still be in the region.