OF all the titles to burnish a young life, that of “Britain’s youngest suicide bomber” must be one of the saddest. That is the label now attached to Talha Asmal, a 17-year-old from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who is believed to have died in a suicide bomb blast orchestrated by Islamic State. He was reported to have detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives while fighting for the militant group in Iraq.
At the time of writing, the young man’s family are still awaiting official confirmation, although they are reported to have seen pictures of what appears to be their son on a Twitter account linked to Isis.
So many aspects of this story are shocking, from the moulding of a young mind to carry out such an act, through the death of a young man described by his school as quiet, private and a typical teenager – and even through to Isis being linked to a Twitter, using the latest social media tools, often employed to unimportant or even frivolous ends, to such evil purpose.
In a sombre but sensible statement, Qari Asim, an imam at a mosque near to where Asmal grew up, argued that Isis leaders acted “like paedophiles” in grooming young men. He added that Isis were “running a sophisticated social media campaign and the community is concerned their faith is being used by hate preachers and internet groomers to manipulate their religion”.
It is hard not to agree with that, and difficult not to feel that the people who groomed this lad should have had the courage to go and explode the bomb themselves, rather than somehow convincing a naïve 17-year-old to do the job for them.
It seems that for young Muslims there are dangerous spells at work in the world. Talha Asmal’s family said in a statement that he was “a loving, kind, caring and affable teenage. He never harboured any ill will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind”. They added that his “tender years and naivety” were exploited in an act of “deliberate and calculated grooming”. It’s hard not to agree with that and we can only sympathise with a family who have lost a son in such a cruel and outlandish manner.