LONDON: A 13-year-old boy from Belgium has been designated as the youngest of the Islamic State’s foreign fighters waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.
British experts on radicalization have confirmed that 13-year-old Younes Abaaound travelled to Syria with his 27-year-old brother Abdelhamid in early 2014.
Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence has confirmed that the boy — son of a shopkeeper called Omar and originally from Morocco left to join the Islamist fighters in January.
Talking about the killing of US journalist James Foley by Islamic State, Professor Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization said ISIS is a sophisticated, media-savvy organization. They clearly wanted to use a fluent English speaker to ensure the clip was widely used in the US media.
“An American would have been ideal, but there still aren’t many American fighters in the conflict, and it may have been difficult to find one in the place where the hostage was held. In that sense, there isn’t necessarily a lot of significance in the fact that the speaker is British except for the fact that, being British, he also speaks English fluently,” Prof Neumann said.
This photo released on a jihadist website shows three Islamic State fighters from Britain.
“This is not the first execution or incident of torture or extreme violence carried out by a British or western fighter, we have seen a number of executions and incidents of terrible violence with foreign fighter involvement before. What’s significant is not the tactic but that is has been deliberately aimed at the United States,” he added.
“ISIS has been suffering lately with US air strikes proving effective and giving cover for Kurdish and Iraqi forces to make gains against them. What the video aims to do is tip the balance of American public opinion against deeper involvement in the conflict,” Neumann said.
Jihadists from all over the world has joined the Islamic State. This photo published on a jihadist website shows a Chechen fighter in the group in northern Iraq.
Based on the Institute’s counting of western foreign fighters in the conflict, there are other countries — such as France, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia and Scandinavian countries — that have more fighters per capita than the UK.
“We believe there are no more than 100 Americans currently involved in the conflict. MI5 and MI6 will likely have narrowed the suspects to a few people by now. We know he has a British, possibly London accent, and there are sophisticated tools available to analyse other photos which have been posted on Facebook and Twitter to ascertain height, eye colour, build etc. The security services likely also have information about clusters of fighters in particular areas, as well as probable locations of the hostages. This, combined with monitoring chatter in social media and forums, gives them enough clues to narrow it down to 3 or 4 people,” Prof Neumann said.