AOAV: all our reportsUnderstanding the rising cult of the suicide bomber

Understanding the rising cult of the suicide bomber: Appendix 5 – Suicide bombers from Europe (UK)

This article is part of AOAV’s report, Understanding the rising cult of the suicide bomber, to read the whole report, please see here. To see the other sections of the report, please go here.

Fatlum Shalaku (May 2015)

Description of the suicide attack

In May 2015, six suicide bombers drove into a government building in Ramadi, Iraq, and blew themselves up, allowing IS fighters to advance further into the city. Fatlum Shalaku was one of the six suicide bombers involved.

Background of suicide bomber

Fatlum Shalaku, also known by the name Abu Musa al-Britani, was a 20-year-old British citizen born in Kosovo to an Albanian family, and was raised in Ladbroke Grove in west London.[i] Fatlum went to Holland Park School as a teenager, and was known as a popular student with a friendly personality. He was also known to enjoy sports and to have studied for his A-Levels.  Fatlum however didn’t leave a large social media footprint, and deactivated his Facebook profile before leaving for Syria. Fatlum and his immediate family were not particularly religious; they lived a relatively secular lifestyle after experiencing communist rule in Kosovo. He lived in a diverse community in west London, in an area which included large Moroccan and Somali communities.

Fatlum’s suicide bombing came little more than two months after the death of his brother Flamur, who died fighting on the frontline in Iraq in March 2015. He and his brother were moved by the Syrian conflict, and in 2013 they told their parents that they are going to Turkey to engage in aid work to help the Syrian refugees there. However, they soon crossed the border into Syria and later into Iraq.

In London, Faltum was involved in the gang lifestyle and was thought to be a member of the Westside gang. He was also part of a circle of friends who had been radicalized – at least five students from his school travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State. He was also a very close friend of Mohammed Nasser, alternatively known as Hamza Parvez, who also fought for IS.

In the Shalaku family, Flamur was the first to be radicalized. In an almost overnight transformation, he started going to the mosque regularly whilst he gave up drinking and going out with women. However, with Fatlum the process was more gradual in nature, so may not have been as obvious. Friends and various members from the community believe that he was radicalized by an un-named recruiter in the area – later killed fighting in Syria – who turned many other local young men to the jihadist cause. These young men recruited others through messaging services such as Whatsapp. However, the dominant influence over Fatlum appeared to be coming from his brother Flamur; a friend stated: “If anyone influenced him it must have been his older brother. They were close and Fatlum looked up to him. He rediscovered his faith a year into his degree at uni.” Just two weeks before going to Syria, Fatlum was planning a holiday in Spain, had it not been for his older brother talking him out of it.

Community and family response to the attack

Faltum was attending Ladbroke Grove’s Al-Manar mosque, a large mosque and an Islamic centre in west London that offers Quran and Hadith classes along with Arabic classes. Al-Manar mosque thrives from the generous donations of its attendants and also from UK government support. Several days after the death of Faltum, the imam of the mosque was reported quoting Ibn Taymieh, one of the Islam’s most forceful theologians that lived in the 13th century, and someone whom IS now revere. However, as more time has passed since the incidents involving Faltum and his brother, Al Manar mosque has become stricter on which Islamic scholars to quote during Friday’s Khutbas, and has started recording each and every Khutba. They also insist on not taking any political stance when talking about the sufferings of the Muslims in the Arab world; and not to mention the Syrian regime or any external or internal actors when talking about the war in Syria, so as to avoid the provoking of young men.

Al-Manar mosque was first opened in 2001 – Muslims from all walks of life use the mosque, and almost 1,200 worshippers regularly attend the Friday prayers and khutbahs. However, it is known that a significant number of IS fighters also used to pray there from time to time, including Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, Hamza Parvez, Mohammed Nasser, Flamur Shalaku, Choukri Elkhlifi, Mohammed El-Araj, and Aine Davies.

Yet largely, it can be said that the worshippers who attend the mosque come from diverse Islamic strands and traditions; there is the traditional Islam that is brought in from Larache, Morocco, along with a mix of Maliki Fiqh[ii] (jurisprudence), scholarship and Sufi traditions. There is also the competing modernist Salafi tradition inspired by Muhammed ibn Abdul Wahab, a revivalist scholar of the eighteenth century. Members of the mosque management have also confirmed that, it is a mosque where both Shia and Sunnis are welcome, whilst even other lesser-known sects of Islam come to pray at the mosque, such as Ismailis.

Mohammed Rizwan Awan (March 2016)

Description of the suicide attack

On 21 March 2016, in the Iraqi province of Anbar, a vehicle exploded targeting a gathering of Iraqi army troops at a checkpoint outside the Ain al-Assad air base. Mohammed Rizwan Awan was one of the five suicide bombers responsible for the attack, which left more than 30 soldiers killed and damaged 11 vehicles according to an IS statement. However, the Iraqi authorities have denied this number. The attack is considered to be one of the deadliest attacks carried out by a UK jihadist in Iraq.

Background of suicide bomber

Mohammed Rizwan Awan was 27-years-old at the time of the attack, and was from the Crosland Moor area of Huddersfield in northern England. Rizwan’s father Mohammed Idress, who now works as a bus driver but used to live and work in Saudi Arabia, moved to Britain in the 1960s, and for the majority of this time the family resided in Huddersfield. Rizwan worked as a call handler for British Gas in Leeds and was married to a girl named Sophie for two years prior to committing the suicide attack. He was a former student at Honley High School, and later studied at Bradford College. His family described him as a loving person, well educated, happily married with his wife and in secure employment.

Both Rizwan and his wife were born in the UK and left together in 2015 ostensibly to visit Mecca, yet their families have not heard from them since.  After their departure, letters were found in their home stating that Mohammed did not plan to return to the UK and intended to settle in Saudi Arabia. He is believed to have entered Syria through Turkey, before joining IS in Iraq.

IS announced his deadly attack by releasing a picture of Rizwan holding an AK47 rifle, the picture included the caption: ‘‘Martyrdom of brother Abu Musa al-Britani, Allah accepts him, the striker on the Rafdi army.’’

IS press release regarding the attack carried out by Rizwan Awan. The statement announces him as a martyr and asks god to accept him. It also states the location of the attack, the target and the number of casualties.

Community and family response to attack

Rizwan was the nephew of Shahida Awan, the former councillor in Borough in 2004; her husband stated that the family is “not angry”, but rather shocked at what Awan did.  The local MP Barry Sheerman labelled the attack as “shocking news”, expressing disbelief that a man from Huddersfield committed a suicide bombing in Iraq, especially as Huddersfield does not have a reputation for radical mosques or preachers, which makes it difficult to understand how he became radicalised.

The father of Rizwan described his family as well-respected, peaceful and hardworking, and said that they had always encouraged their children into further education and employment, and to pursue respectable professions, which “makes the behaviour of Rizwan even more difficult to understand.” Rizwan’s family have also stated that he had showed no signs of radicalization before he disappeared in May 2015.

Talha Asmal (June 2015)

Description of the suicide attack

On 13 June 2015, four suicide bombers targeted the Iraqi military forces and the local headquarters of the Shia militia (Popular Mobilization Forces) in the Hajjaj area near an oil refinery south of Baiji, Iraq. The suicide bombers used four cars filled with explosives to carry out the attack. Talha Asmal was responsible for one of the explosions after detonating a car packed with explosives. The number of the casualties has not been officially confirmed, however a security source within the Iraqi government said that the total number of injured and dead military personnel and civilians stood at approximately 33. IS claimed responsibility for the attack and named Talha Asmal as one of the suicide bombers, with the others claimed to be from Germany,  Kuwait,  Palestine, Dagestan and Turkmenistan.

Background of suicide bomber

Talha Asmal, known by the name Abu Yusuf al-Britani, was a 17-year-old teenager at the time of the attack, making him the youngest suicide bomber from the UK. Asmal lived with his mother and father in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, before leaving home for Syria via Turkey. Prior to his departure, he was studying ICT and Business at Mirfield Free Grammar School. He had also frequently attended and prayed at the Zakaria Mosque in Dewsbury, since he was around 15 years-of-age. Asmal travelled to Turkey in March of 2015 from Manchester Airport, and from there departed onwards to Syria with his friend Hassan Munshi, after he told his parents that he was going on a college trip during the Easter break. At some point over the next few weeks, he crossed through Syria and entered Iraq. Asmal was described by his teacher as a quiet, private, conscientious student and as a “typical teenager.”

Influences on Asmal’s decision to become a suicide bomber

The family insisted in a statement after the attack, that their son was a victim of IS’s perverse ideology, stating: “It appears that Talha fell under the spell of individuals who continued to prey on his innocence and vulnerability, to the point where if the press reports are accurate, he was ordered to his death by so-called ISIS handlers and leaders too cowardly to do their own dirty work.”

Community and family response to the attack

After the release of an IS statement regarding the attack along with the publication of his photo on IS-linked social media accounts, his family released a statement describing Asmal as  “a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager” and said that he was groomed through the internet: “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.”

In the statement the family also said that they were “naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us,” and that they condemn violent behaviour in all its forms. The family denied that Talha had displayed any indications of radicalism in the period leading up to his departure from the UK. They also urged other families who suspect that a family member is showing signs of radicalization and seek help and advice immediately.

The former MP for Dewesbury and a friend of the Asmal family, Shahid Malik, described the family as “a beautiful, caring, peace-loving and incredibly humble family”, and labelled Talha as a sweet-natured, helpful, respectful and friendly kid, stating it was extremely difficult to believe that Talha had carried out such an attack.

Abdul Waheed Majid (February 2014)

Description of the suicide attack

On 6 February 2014, a suicide attack was carried out by Abdul Waheed Majid at the gates of Aleppo Central Prison, which was under siege by al-Nusra and various other Islamic militias. The prison was allegedly being used a ‘torture chamber’ for over 4,000 imprisoned rebels. The attack resulted in the release of hundreds of prisoners, and led to the breaking out of large-scale clashes between al-Nusra and Syrian government forces. The number of the casualties as a direct result of the attack has not been officially verified, however a YouTube channel affiliated with al-Nusra reported that 60Shabeeh’ (thugs/regime forces/military personnel) were killed during the attack. Additionally, the fierce clashes which occurred in the immediate aftermath of the suicide bombing resulted in the death of approximately 300 combatants from both sides – al-Nusra and the Syrian military.

Background of suicide bomber

Abdul Waheed Majid, the first suicide bomber from the UK known to have carried out an attack in Syria, was also known by the name Abu Suleiman al-Britani. He was 41 years-old, married and a father of three children. Waheed lived in Martyrs Avenue in Crawley, West Sussex, and was raised in the area by Pakistani-born parents. Waheed grew up similarly to any regular teenager in the town, where he played football in the park and ate fish and chips; he was also known to enjoy watching science fiction movies and practice Karate. From the ages of 7 until around 16, Waheed went to Islamic lessons at the mosque for two hours every weekday; he took his faith seriously and was also learning to speak Arabic. He married a Pakistani woman named Tahmina, a religiously conservative woman who wears a Burqa. He worked as a road engineer with the UK Highways Agency, repairing carriageways after motorway accidents. According to members of the Islamic Centre in Crawly, Waheed was a humble man and liked to help people, and he was known to regularly help out with cleaning the mosque.

Waheed initially went to Turkey in order to volunteer in a Syrian refugee camp, however from there he crossed the border into Syria and joined al-Nusra in 2014, a few weeks before the attack took place.  Al-Nusra released a video of him before the attack standing next to the truck filled with explosives – he was asked in Arabic to say his final words or testimony before the suicide operation, but he replies that his tongue is locked away and that he can’t say anything.

Influences on decision to become a suicide bomber

The town of Crawley has had several incidents of jihadist involvement amongst its Muslim population, and a number of men from the town are known to have been part of the broad network of radical Islamist thinking. Waheed used to pray at the local mosque in Crawley, and he had close relationships to members of the Islamic community centre. In 2012, the Islamic community centre and mosque started gathering aid and money to send to a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.[iii] When Waheed first left the UK for the region in June 2013, he joined an aid convoy on its way to Turkey with several other men from Crawly.[iv] He stayed for six months in a Turkish refugee camp to provide help in reconstruction and improvement to the layout of the sanitation system there.

At the camp, Waheed listened to the stories of the Syrian refugees and shared the experiences with his family back UK over the phone – he was greatly moved and impacted by these events. At that time, al-Nusra and other Islamic militias had been imposing a siege since April 2013 on the central prison of Aleppo, in an attempt to free the prisoners incarcerated there. In early 2014 the release of 11,000 photos depicting torture victims who died in the Syrian government’s numerous security facilities were released. The release of these imaged had a significant impact on Waheed while he was volunteering in neighbouring Turkey. His family members and members of the local mosque believed that these photos in particular, along with the terrifying stories he had heard from the Syrians inside the camp, triggered him to join al-Nusra and to carry out the suicide bombing with the aim of freeing prisoners.

Community and family response to attack

A few days after the al-Nusra video of Waheed was released, the police raided his home in Crawley after obtaining a search warrant under the UK’s anti-terrorism laws. Abdul Waheed’s brother, Hafeez, said that the effects were devastating to the family, as they were labelled by many in the community as terrorists. Waheed’s wife, Tahmina, lost her job as a cleaner in a local cinema after the news spread – she has also been abused in the street, received death threats, and someone also damaged her car while it was parked outside her house.

Many of Waheed’s friends and members of the Islamic Centre are stunned by the attack, and still don’t understand why he committed this act, especially given that he seemingly had everything he needed in life, such as a stable job, a wife and three children.

His son however, considers his father as a hero and refuses to believe the allegations that his father is a terrorist, and has refused to comment on the suicide bombing.[v] The brother of Abdul Waheed also stated that ‘‘We feel that if he hadn’t got a beard, and was white and wearing a uniform with a crown on his arm with a regiment number, he would have been awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross. Instead Waheed is called a terrorist. How can that be? He gave his life to save people from that prison.’’

Hisham Folkard (July 2016)

Description of the suicide attack

On 3 July 2016, a suicide bomber carried out an attack with a car targeting the Iraqi army in Baiji, Iraq, during the holy month Ramadan. The attack left 5 military personnel dead and another 15 injured. Iraqi army sources said that there were two suspected suicide bombers involved in the attack, one of which was interrupted, whilst the other was Hisham Folkard.

Background of suicide bomber

Hisham Folkard, 28 years-old, was also known by the name Abu Hurairah al-Britani, and grew up and lived in Leicester with his Kenyan Muslim mother. For most of his teenage years, he lived in a block of flats in the Highfields area of the city. Folkard’s father, Mike, is a white British devout Roman Catholic who works as a travel agent in Bahrain. Folkard’s relationship with his father was almost non-existent, and it was cut-off completely after he and his brother travelled to Yemen to study Islam with the approval of his mother. Hisham’s older brother, Omar is believed to have been killed fighting for al-Qaeda in Mali in 2012.

Hisham was one of two Britons who were captured by the Turkish government and released in a prisoner swap between the Turkish government and IS in 2014. The other was the named Shabazz Suleman. Folkard is known for posing in a photograph with a jar of Nutella to mock the CNN claim that IS lures women by using kittens and Nutella, and to ‘show off’ the lifestyle under the Islamic State rule.

Influences on Folkard’s decision to become a bomber

Little is known about Folkard in this regard, however what is known is that he lived in a broken home where his mother denied the two children access to their father, instead opting to send the brothers to Yemen in order to study Islam.

Community and family response to attack

When Hisham’s estranged father was asked about his son’s suicide attack, he remarked: “I’m not surprised. I see the stories about these boys on TV every week. Of course it is different [that its my son], but I hardly knew either of them. Their mother took them away, and when she let them go to Yemen to study Islam I cut them off completely.’’

This IS press release of the attack described Abu Hurairah al-Britani as a knight from the martyrdom knights, and announces casualties among the Rafdi army (referring to the Iraqi army)[vi] without specifying the number of those killed.

Kabir Ahmed (November 2014)

Description of the suicide attack

On 7 November 2014, a truck carrying eight tonnes of explosives was detonated in the outskirts of the northern Iraqi town of Baiji, killing a senior Iraqi police officer, Major General Faisal al-Zamili, and another three police officers at the scene. Another fifteen people were wounded. The victims of the attack were mostly Shia Muslims. The bombing was carried out by the Briton Kabir Ahmed.

Background of suicide bomber

Kabir Ahmed – 32 years-old from Derby – was a well-known Islamist extremist also known by the name Abu Sumayyah Al-Britani. Ahmed is a father of three and was married to a woman called Nashira Arif, before he left for Syria to join Jund Al-Sham in 2013. Ahmed was the second British suicide bomber to have detonated a device during the current upheaval in Iraq and Syria.

In February, 2012 Ahmed was jailed alongside two others (Ihjaz Ali and Razwan Javed) in the UK for gay hate crimes, after he was caught handing out leaflets calling for the execution of homosexuals; He was convicted in court of ‘‘distributing threatening written material to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientatio’’ and was handed a 15-month prison sentence.

A family member said that Ahmed began to be influenced by extremist ideology after finishing his studies at the University of East London. The family first noticed that he was becoming radicalised after his return to Derby from university in London, when he started socialising in the East Midlands city with people from the al-Muhajiroun group, a banned British terrorist organisation. He used to pray in Jamia Hanifia mosque in the city’s Normanton Road, and developed close ties to the hate preacher Anjem Choudary,[vii] whom he used to refer to as a brother.

Ahmed then left the UK to go and fight what he called the ‘holy war’ in Syria, where he resided in Idlib in the country’s northwest. In an interview for “the ISIS show” podcast, he talked about the progression of the conflict and described fighting between the insurgents and the Syrian forces, saying that “We have been successful so far in pushing back the regime”.

He also admitted that he was at first scared when he arrived in Syria: “the first time I heard a bomb, I realised then that this is scary you know.” He also explained how he was involved in targeted assassination missions against what he called Shabiha.

Kabir boasted about life with IS and about fighting in Syria, saying it is “actually quite fun,” and that it is “better than that game ‘Call of Duty’.” He described life in IS stronghold areas as akin to living with total freedom saying: “For us to be here it is freedom. Total freedom. I can walk around with a Kalashnikov if I want to.”

He also explained how foreign fighters often burn their passports because they want to be dissociated from their previous nationalities, and instead think of themselves as citizens of only the Islamic State. He also said that this act is not exclusively practiced by foreign fighters (the ‘Muhajeeren’),[viii] but also by Syrians themselves.[ix] He added that “Our citizenship means nothing to us.”

When he was asked about his passport and whether he has burned it, he answered that “I don’t know where my passport is and I don’t know where it was and I didn’t really care about it”. Ahmed was informed by the UK home office that his citizenship was to be taken away from him, however he said he welcomed this as he wanted to disassociate himself from his British nationality.

He believed that the British media created fear amongst the public and sought to portray a negative image of the Muslims in the UK, and that the right-wing Christians provoked Muslims by entering their mosques, not just in the UK but also elsewhere in Europe. He believed that the political right-wing was pushing people to go to Sham, and that the right-wing elite would not accept Islam until Muslims accept all the western moral values (namely, democracy and secularism). The pushing-away of the Muslim youth will build up and explode according to Ahmed, a statement which he described as a warning.

When he was asked what had radicalised him, he answered: “It wasn’t the videos, it wasn’t the lectures, it wasn’t the books that I was reading. What radicalized me was the Government. He adds “what radicalized me the most was the American Government, the British Government, the European Governments, and what they were doing with our people in Iraq and Afghanistan.’’

Ahmed made the decision to leave for Syria while he was in prison, he said: “When you’re sitting in that cell for months and months the only thing you can think about is jihad, you start to think why don’t you go out and fight for your people who are being oppressed. How can I have a comfortable life while other Muslim brothers can’t find anything to eat just because they are from Ahl al Sunnah w al Jama’a.”

Ahmed admitted that he is on the ‘waiting list’ to be a suicide bomber, and wished that his name could be moved to top of the list, he also said the same thing in an interview broadcast by the BBC Panorama programme. He did not pledge allegiance to anyone, stating that instead he was fighting on the side of any group who stand up for the right of the Sunnis. Yet he stated that if a group is also fighting for democracy, then he is not interested in that fight.

When he was asked about his family, he said: “My family don’t know where I am and why I left, and I haven’t contacted them since I left, and I love them dearly…but we are here to rise the Islamic state and this is more important than my children and my wife.” He continued by saying “I felt like I was in prison in that country, like I’m being punished for something. Here I don’t need a driving licence or health insurance – it is a complete freedom”.

Kabir Ahmed was far from being an isolated individual or ‘lone wolf’ often associated with radicalization in Western societies. He seemed balanced and sociable according to his neighbour Aleem Sheid, 33, who said: “I socialised with him, we would talk about work, life, that sort of thing. We had certain family issues that were similar, like his mum and dad were separated like mine.”

The last time he called his family, his mother begged him to come back as his wife was pregnant with their third child. However, he told his mother that they will meet in heaven.

A family member said that when Ahmed was released from prison, he became a completely different man: ‘‘Something deep down in his heart changed him. His level of talk was different; he wouldn’t talk to women.”  His mother agreed that he seemed different after he returned home from prison.

Community and family response to attack

Kabir’s family are described as a moderate Muslim family and didn’t know that he had joined IS, as they were not contact with him after his departure in April 2014. Neighbours of Ahmed didn’t notice his supposed change of behaviour or any signs of radicalisation – he was described by them as a nice guy. The former mayor of Derby, Fareed Hussain, said that he had met with Ahmed a couple of times previously, but that it was ‘‘difficult to anticipate he would become a suicide bomber’’. He said: ‘‘It is difficult to divert a person once they get on a track of this nature. They so staunchly believe in the views they hold, that they are right 100% and everyone else is wrong. It is difficult to have rational conversations.’’

Aleem Sheid, a friend of Kabir, said: ‘‘Nobody is born bad, it’s people around you that make you behave bad [sic] and push you down a certain way. The million-pound question is where did he get radicalised? I don’t know – it’s the people who were around him.’’

Remarking on Ahmed’s comments about his radicalisation on the radio show, Sheid said: ‘‘When I read that he had said about foreign policy, I just thought that must have been a script because he couldn’t speak like that. He was a follower, not a leader. You could ask him to do something and he would do it, he was that sort of guy.”

When the news emerged about the suicide attack, Kabir’s mother (Nasreen Akhtar, 53) was distressed by the news. “She was in a quandary over whether to accept the reports she has read and to mourn him, or whether to grasp at straws and hope that he is still alive.” according to Mr. Hussain.  Some of her friends have said they believe that she has nothing to do with how Kabir turned out to be.

The UK Home Office commented on news of the boming by saying that: ‘‘We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Iraq and are looking into them.’’

On the Twitter account of another jihadi – known as Abu Hussain al Britani – Ahmed was hailed for the attack. The post said ‘‘My brother Abu Sumayah Britani (kashmiri) done a martyrdom op in Iraq killing a top Iraqi commander and many regime soldiers! ALLAHU AKBAR!’’. He also said: ‘‘I’ve never met a brother that wanted Jannah (Heaven)[x] more than Abu Sumayah! May Allah accept him and elevate his rank in Jannah!’’

Regarding allegations suggesting that Kabir became radicalized at the University of East London (UEL), a spokesman for the university said that there was no possibility that Ahmed was radicalised there, and that he studied there between September 2003 and February 2004 only. He adds: “Here at UEL, we have an excellent record of multi-faith and multi-cultural harmony and equality and diversity. We continue to work closely with the authorities to make sure that radicalisation is neither tolerated nor allowed any room at UEL.”

One of the family members, who was impressed by the courage that Ahmed showed by detonating himself, said ‘‘I don’t know if it is right, or was he pleasing Allah? I wish I had known. I was thinking he must be brave, he must have a heart of stone.’’

A question that keeps the family wondering however, is why was he allowed to leave the airport from  the UK, and why the UK border police didn’t arrest him, as he was known to the authorities as a result of his previous conviction for hate crime.

Abu Hajar al-Britani (November 2014)

Description of the suicide attack

In November 2014, a suicide attack was carried out with a car containing 1,800kg of explosives, targeting the Iraqi security forces.  The attack was carried out in the strategic town Baiji and destroyed a significant number of tanks and artillery equipment. The attack, according to an Iraqi source, did not just aim to attack Iraqi security forces but also to blow up an oil pipeline that runs from Hawija to Baiji oil refinery. The initial aim was to secure the local territory controlled by IS through igniting the spilled oil on the water surface of Tigris.

Profile of suicide bomber

Abu Hajar al-Britani was the third British suicide bomber to have detonated a device during the current upheaval involving IS in Syria and Iraq. The picture of him was released by Salahuddin, IS’ media branch, and shows him wearing full military uniform, his face covered with a black balaclava whilst his gloved hand is raised with his index finger in a motion that signifies the oneness of god. The message accompanying the photo reads: “Brother Abu Hajar Al Baritani, from the UK, did a Martyrdom operation on the Safawy Army in Baiji, may Allah accept him.”

IS did not release any information with regard to his real identity or British name, referring only to his nationality.

Abu Khalid al-Britani (October 2015)

Description of the suicide attack

On 22 October 2015, a twin IS suicide bombing was carried out against the headquarters of the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization in Ramadi. Resulting in a death toll of 50 Iraqis, the first attack was carried out by the Briton Abu Khalid al Britani, whilst the second perpetrator was reportedly from Tunisia.

Background of suicide bomber

Abu Khalid al-Britani’s real identity, name and age have still not been revealed, however he was thought to be in his forties at the time of the attack. In origin, he was half Yemeni and half Somali.

Abu Maidah, another British IS fighter of Somali origin, described him as his ‘best friend’. They both met in a terrorist training camp before Abu Khalid had volunteered to fight in Iraq.

Abu Omar al-Britani (October 2015)

Description of the suicide attack

In October 2015, a suicide attack was carried out near the city of Ramadi in Iraq. The attack was carried out after the Iraqi Special Forces launched a large offensive to take back Ramadi from IS.  An IS press statement claimed that the attack was carried out by a British fighter known as Abu Omar al-Britani. The bombing resulted in the death and injury of 80 Iraqis.

Background of suicide bomber

A picture of an IS fighter sitting behind an office desk in Anbar province, was claimed to be Abu Omar al-Britani and the caption reads: ‘the brother and the martyr Abu Omar al-Britani- may Allah accept him.’’ Little else is known about the background of Abu Omar al-Britani.

This research was undertaken with assistance from the NATO Counter-IED Centre of Excellence.

[i] Ladbroke Grove: Drugs and criminality had always been a facet of Ladbroke Grove since the 90s.

[ii] Maliki school or Fiqh: is one of the four major religious schools laws within the Sunni Islam. Founded by Malik Ibn Anas and relies heavily on Quran and Hadith as primary sources. 

[iii] AOAV interview with a member of Crawley Islamic Center

[iv] ibid

[v] AOAV research

[vi] The Rafdi: literally means rejectors or rejectionists and it is usually used by the salafist to refer to Shia and Alawite because they reject Abu bakr, Uthman and Omar as a succor of the prophet Muhammad  and as the rightful khalifas.

[vii] Anjem Choudary: a British lawyer turned preacher is considered  one of the most notorious hate preachers living in Britain and is known for supporting the Islamic State.

[viii] Al-Muhajereen: literally means immigrants and it is the word that was used to describe the first group of people who believed in Prophet Mohammed and escaped with him from Makka to Al-madina

[ix] Al Ansar: is the term that was used for the local inahbitant of Al-Madina who took the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and his followers (the Muhajirun) into their homes when they escaped from Mecca

[x] Jannah: heaven.