The family of a British teen is in shock after learning he may have been recruited by Islamic State extremists and persuaded to carry out a suicide bombing in Iraq.
Talha Asmal, 17, was last seen leaving his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in March to allegedly join Islamic State, along with his friend, Hassan Munshi, also 17.
His family described Asmal as "loving, kind, caring and affable," and called the terrorists who lured him to Iraq” cowardly,” Sky News reported.
While Asmal’s death has not been confirmed, relatives say images shared on social media -- showing a bearded young man purportedly named Abu Yusuf Al Britany -- appear to be him.
He is believed to have become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, responsible for blowing up a vehicle fitted with explosives in the northern Iraqi city of Baiji. Islamic State fighters have reportedly claimed seven suicide bombings in Baiji -- one by a Briton and others by a German, two Dagestanis, a Kuwaiti, a Palestinian and a Turkistani.
Asmal’s family -- who did not want to be identified -- said he came from a "hard-working, peace-loving and law-abiding British Muslim family" who unreservedly "condemns and abhors all acts of violence.”
They said he never exhibited extreme or radical views, but he had been exploited by extremists on the Internet "in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him."
Without their knowledge and against their will, he traveled to Iraq via Turkey and fell under the spell of ISIS handlers who are "too cowardly to do their own dirty work,” relatives said.
“We are all, naturally, utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us," they told Sky. "As a family we would like to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that 'ISIS' are not Islam," they added.
The family also urged others with concerns about relatives being exploited in a similar way, to contact police. West Yorkshire Police said they were unable to confirm the identity of the person who had died, but were continuing to support families who have loved ones believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said the case was "deeply concerning" and underlined the need to prevent "young people being radicalized."
Asmal’s family had a message for terror groups who prey on young people to commit violent acts. "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."