A Sydney teenager who ran away to join jihadists in Syria is the pawn of terrorists who “groomed” him just like pedophiles groom their child victims, a terror expert says.
Abdullah Elmir has turned up in a propaganda video for the IS group, also known as ISIL, after disappearing from his Bankstown home in June, saying he was going fishing.
The video is the fourth in a series called “Message of the Mujahid” which features foreign fighters, with previous releases showing British, French and Moroccan jihadists.
The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, urged Muslims to reject calls from abroad tocommit violence against Australia and said it was “utterly deplorable for violent extremists to use Islam as a cover for their crimes and atrocities”.
In a joint statement, the nation’s peak Muslim organisations expressed “profound concerns and sadness” over Abdullah’s appearance in the Islamic State video and said there was an “urgent need” to examine how and why the teenager felt the need to leave the country and fight with a terrorist organisation.
In the clip, the 17-year-old threatens Australia and any nation that would try to stand in the group’s way.
Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre says Elmir was recruited by wanted terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an Australian based in Syria.
He says terror recruiters lure targets by making friends through social media, like many sexual predators.
“It’s like sexual predation,” Professor Barton told the media.
“Somebody might strike up a friendship in an online chat forum and present themselves in a different fashion – to try to get them into their web. By the time they actually meet the people they’re speaking with, they may be in too deep to know better.”
He says the boy appears as a “pawn in the machine” in the chilling video.
“He thinks he’s the star … but the reality is, his new friends have got him a one-way ticket,” he said. “He’s not in charge of his own destiny at all, he’s being used.”
Prof Barton says young people are the easiest to radicalise.
“Teenagers, 20-somethings, particularly young men more than young women, are vulnerable to making rash judgments,” he said. “And they tend to be more rebellious toward (older) generations and sceptical of establishment figures.”
It is believed former Kings Cross bouncer Mr Baryalei, 33, recruited Elmir through western Sydney street preaching group Parramatta Street Dawah.
“He’s said to have recruited 30 plus young people – mostly in western Sydney through Street Dawah” Professor Barton said.
We agree with Professor Barton. What we are seeing is teenage braggadocio. No 17 year old understands the geo politics behind the likes of IS, they have no idea what the reality of death and injury is on the battlefield, they do not yet have an understanding of the terrible implications of the violence they may wreak on other families or what it really means to take another life, nor do they have the discretion to understand varying views of their own religion. What we are seeing here is the sophisticated internet version of the gathering of child soldiers by unprincipled militia in Africa and elsewhere.
This young man will, one day, without any doubt, die a bloody death unknown, unmourned and unmarked in the conflict in Iraq. Those who recruited him as a footsoldier will not bat an eyelid at his passing.
Even if he does not, his life is effectively ruined, as he will no longer be welcome in his home country. The very best outlook he probaby has is to become a stateless refugee, in hiding.
It is all very sad, and a huge burden of guilt lies on the souls of those who recruit our innocents. The cases recently of two young Austrian women who travelled to join IS only to find themselves pimped out to fighters, impregnated, and now unable to leave after becoming utterly disillusioned, is yet more evidence that these people deserve our unflinching condemnation.
Meanwhile, Abdullah’s family have said they are shocked and devastated. They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go. They have described him as academically bright and caring: and it is often so – those with intelligence, compassion and passion are the easiest to turn to the darkness.
We should all pray this young man somehow survives and is reuinted with those who can care for him. That, however, is vanishingly unlikely.