West Yorkshire town in shock after death of local boy
A Dewsbury family say they are ‘devastated’ and ‘heartbroken’ after news broke on Monday morning that their son has been killed whilst carrying out a suicide bombing.
17-year-old Talha Asmal flew out to the war-torn nation of Iraq in March to join Islamic State insurgents alongside fellow local teen Hassan Munshi.
Their disappearances were labelled ‘out of character’ at the time and prompted community leaders in the West Yorkshire town to question whether more could have been done to avoid their departure.
On Monday 15th June, an IS-affiliated Twitter account confirmed that a young male named Abu Yusuf al-Britani – believed to be Talha, detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives at an oil refinery attack in the northern Iraqi town of Baiji.
At least 11 people were killed in the attack, which included a further three suicide bombers as well as Talha.
In a statement released earlier this week, Talha’s parents said: “Talha comes from a close knit, hardworking, peace loving and law abiding British Muslim family. The entire family unreservedly condemns and abhors all acts of violence wherever perpetrated.
“Talha himself 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.
“As a result of this and completely unbeknown to us, his family and entirely against our wishes he ended up travelling it seems to Iraq.
“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.
“We need time and understanding to come to terms with our unimaginable and painful loss.
“As a family we would like to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that ‘ISIS’ are not Islam. They do not represent in any way, shape or form Islam and Muslims and we are no longer prepared to allow a barbaric group like ‘ISIS’ to hijack our faith. ‘ISIS’ Not and Never in our name.
“As a family we would urge anyone who has any concerns about their own family members being exploited in a similar way to seek the help and advice of the police as soon as ever possible.”
Farook Yunus, from Dewsbury, runs an award winning youth group –Kumon Y’all, in the town which works on promoting interfaith relations between all generations.
He said the dangers of online grooming were very real and urged more parents to get informed about the threat social media can play.
“Engaging with the youth, through projects such as Kumon Y’all, is key to ensuring these incidents do not happen again,” he continued.
“In that same sense, as much as an adult can teach a child about online safety, the children also play a role in teaching us.
“Online grooming from extremists is a thing which did not necessarily effect the previous generation so we are all learning about this new threat all the time.”
What they are saying:
Imam Qari Asim, Leeds’ Makkah Masjid
“Human life is sacred in Islam, and to see a young person from one of our communities tricked into killing others and dying for the sake of this false ISIS ideology is truly heart-breaking. British Muslims have come together to reject this group, and now our voices are beginning to grow louder.
“It is urgent that we expose the truth behind this hateful terrorist group, which wants to abuse our young people and use them for cannon fodder. Recently Imams launched ‘Haqiqah,’ a new online magazine which is helping to lead the digital fightback against ISIS, proving that the group has no claim to our religion.”
Saleha Jaffer, Families Against Stress
and Trauma (FAST)
“The issue of online radicalisation of children in the UK is now on a scale never seen before. The suffering of the families of these children, who have been groomed online and stolen from the safety of their homes, cannot be put into words.
“I have been working with families like Talha Asmal’s for many years and the anguish caused when they hear that their son or daughter has been lied to and brainwashed by fanatics to be used as cannon fodder for an unjust cause like this is devastating, heart breaking and unbearable.
“It is the responsibility of all of us, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends to tackle this danger to our young people and ensure we do all we can ensure radicals cannot target their vulnerable minds with their lies and false ideologies of hate.”
Hanif Qadir, Active Change Foundation
“It is saddening and devastating to see a young man like Talha Asmal, with his entire whole future ahead of him, conned into throwing his life away and killing others so that some criminals can try to take over an oil refinery. It is an absolute disgrace.
“When we say ISIS is a cancer within Islam, this is what we mean – it is an ideological poison and a disease that is now killing our kids. We urgently need to work together to stop it, before any more young lives are wasted”.