Members of the Dewsbury community have reacted with shock and sadness after a teenager reportedly killed himself in a suicide bombing in Iraq.
An Isis-affiliated social media account reported on Saturday that a young male named Abu Yusuf al-Britani - believed to be 17-year-old Talha Asmal - detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives in the northern Iraqi town of Baiji.
And community leaders have condemned ISIS for “brainwashing” and “grooming” Asmal, who was believed to have fled to fight in the middle east with Hassan Munshi, also 17, in March.
Councillor Masood Ahmed visited the family yesterday.
He said that, although it has not yet been confirmed Asmal was the bomber, the family have gone by significant evidence given to them by the police and security services.
He added: “The parents were understandably devastated and shocked at what happened. Everyone was so shocked and quiet – you could have heard a pin drop.
“Talha was a naive and vulnerable lad, but I had never heard anything bad about the kid. People who went to school with him and knew him said he was never in trouble with the police, and there were no signs that he would be radicalised.”
Coun Ahmed (Lab, Dewsbury South) believed the internet had a big part to play in Asmal’s radicalisation.
He said: “He was groomed by these people.
“This is like somebody being groomed by a paedophile on the internet. These people have preyed on his vulnerability.”
He added that Asmal’s family had hoped he would come home before they got the same news.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff said: “Both myself and the community in Dewsbury are deeply shocked and devastated by the news of Talha Asmal.
“I met his family yesterday evening and they are understandably traumatised by what has happened.
“What we have to do now is come together and do all we can to ensure no more impressionable young people are brainwashed by those behind Isis. These evil people use the internet and social media to target impressionable young people, painting a very different picture to the reality of what is really happening in Isis-controlled areas.
“We need to ensure that we have a robust plan to work with the community; we need work with the schools, the mosques, churches, the community groups and parents to try and ensure that young people are aware of the reality of what is actually happening in Syria and Iraq.
“There is so much good about Dewsbury, yet once again our town has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I want our community to now demonstrate all that is positive about Dewsbury by remaining united, working together to come up with strategies to ensure that no other boys or girls follow this path.”
Coun Ahmed believed there needs to be more positive role models from the community reaching out to disaffected young people like Asmal.
He said: “There are some excellent role models within the community, there are men and women who have gone on to become very influential figures. Just look at Baroness Warsi.”
He also advised parents of teenagers to keep an eye on passports and travel documents.
Talha was a sixth form student at Mirfield Free Grammar, whose headteacher, Lorraine Barker, said: “We are aware of media reports relating to one of our sixth form students and we are working with the authorities. Until the reports are confirmed we are not able to comment.”