June 16th 2015
The last few days have seen three high profile cases involving UK citizens travelling abroad to fight along extremist organisations ‘in the name of Islam’.
Before the case of three sisters from Bradford believed to be travelling to Syria with their children, two young British men are believed to have died … one perpetrating a suicide bombing at an Iraq oil refinery for Islamic State, the other attacking an Kenyan army base with terror group al Shabaab.
It is thought that online radicalisation could have played a part in all of these incidents, with the family of 17 year-old suicide bomber Talha Asmal convinced that he was groomed online via social networking sites and/or chatrooms.
Talha Asmal flew to Turkey in March with friend Hassan Munshi, also 17, telling his family he was on a school trip. On Saturday, Islamic State reported that he was the driver of one of four vehicles packed with explosives used to attack the refinery. His parents Ibrahim and Noorjaha have accused the jihadist terror group of grooming him and being “too cowardly to do their own dirty work”, preying on his “innocence and vulnerability”.
“Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager,” according to his parents. “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 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.”
They added that he came from a "hard-working, peace-loving and law-abiding British Muslim family" who unreservedly "condemns and abhors all acts of violence".
Against a background of hundreds of UK citizens believed to have travelled to the Middle East to fight alongside jihadists, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that more needs to be done to tackle the growing issue. "Today's terrorist may of course be a hardened member of an organised terrorist 'cell', but may very well also be a lone disaffected youth radicalised by extremist material on his home computer. The police must find a way to deal with both."
Earlier in the year, Sky News obtained footage depicting an internet café where Islamic State foreign fighters work shifts coordinated to timezones around the world to attract and groom new recruits.
At the state opening of parliament last month, the Queen announced the government’s intention to introduce new measures to tackle radicalisation, including extreme disruption orders.
As long ago as February 2011 in a speech on radicalisation and Islamic extremism in Munich, Prime Minister David Cameron observed: “Internet chatrooms are virtual meeting places where attitudes are shared, strengthened and validated”.