The flurry of rumors surrounding UK's 'Jihadi Jack'

Published January 26th, 2016 - 06:55 GMT

British Muslim convert 'Jihadi Jack' apparently described Islamic State [Daesh] extremists as his 'mates' who 'died fighting and killing Britain's brainwashed solders'.

Jack Letts, 20, left the UK in September 2014 when he was just aged 18, sparking fears that he may have fled to join ISIS in Syria. He is now said to go by the name Ibrahim or Abu Muhammed.

Today, new pictures of the suspected ISIS jihadi emerged as an innocent young schoolboy footballer and aged 17 on a family holiday, his family continue to claim he has not joined the group.

But a screenshot of a conversation he had with a former classmate in November suggests he is not as innocent as his parents would like to think.

A screenshot of a conversation Jack had with a former classmate in November suggests he is not as innocent as his parents would like to think. In it, he writes: 'My mates died fighting and killing your countries [sic] brainwashed soldiers and its servants in the east. It's sickening to even compare you to them'

In it, he writes: 'My mates died fighting and killing your countries [sic] brainwashed soldiers and its servants in the east. It's sickening to even compare you to them.'

The conversation, which appears to have taken place in November 2015, shows the pair engage in an argument.

The screenshot begins with Letts saying: 'We will see who's running scared in Shaa Allaah.'

His former classmate, Enoch Hadrada, replies: 'Yeh see you around actually probably not cos I won't be in Syria without a flak jacket and you won't be allowed back into England.'

Letts replied: 'Go curl back up in the warmth nest mummy and daddy bought you. Ask Allah for guidance.'

But when he was told, 'I will mate', Letts sent the vitriolic message in response.

He said: 'Wallaahi your not my mate. My mates died fighting and killing your countries [sic] brainwashed soldiers and its servants in the east. It's sickening to even compare you to them.'

Today, his shocked parents spoke for their first time – breaking their two-year silence - about their anguish that he had been linked to ISIS, and claimed he had fled for humanitarian reasons.

Jack's story made headlines this week and garnered mass speculation that he had become a frontline fighter for the organisation and had settled in Fallujah, Iraq, with a wife and child.

Speaking from their home in Oxford, father John Letts and his wife, Sally Lane, said today that they monitor Jack's social media accounts 'every day' and described their ordeal as a 'nightmare'.

They added that they felt 'betrayed' by the media and condemned the nickname 'Jihadi Jack' given to their son.

'The things that have been written about him are completely false,' the couple said.

'The police and security services say they have no evidence he has done anything wrong.

'We monitor Jack's social media accounts every single day and he has never posted photographs of weapons.

'He is a really kind, funny kid who is very gentle. He is totally non-violent and was only motivated by one thing: every day, on the television and computer screens, there were constant pictures of Syria and the hundreds of dying and starving or being bombed by Assad.

'Jack was totally disturbed by that. He is a very humane person and he wanted to do something to help.

'We last saw him just under two years ago and we have been living in hell ever since. Now we just want him to come home but failing that we want him in a safe country.'

Mr Letts added: 'I feel like my son is walking on a railway track, blindfolded, and there's a train coming and he can't hear me, like I can't do anything about it.

'It has been a nightmare.'

Jack grew up in Oxford and lived in a red-brick terraced house on a narrow street in the centre of the city.

The Liverpool supporter attended Cherwell School in the city and played for a local football team when he was a child.

It was reported yesterday that he had travelled to Kuwait in the summer of 2014, aged 18, to learn Arabic before travelling to Syria.

His father, an archaeological botanist and miller who bakes and sells his own bread on his doorstep, said his son became interested in Islam at the age of 16 and wanted to become 'the best Muslim possible.'

Three months after leaving to study in Kuwait, Jack travelled to war-torn Syria where his family believe he may be working in hospitals or as a translator.

'He said he wanted to help in refugee camps and so I said, 'you'll be useless unless you learn Arabic',' his father continued.

'So he said, 'okay, I'm going to learn Arabic.'

'As a parent, what can you do? Lock your child in their bedroom? What we tried to do was positively channel his interests.

'Jack is a clever kid. He was reading a lot and believed he had to consider all the different opinions before making one himself. We were both raised as Christians but we are a secular household. We didn't oppose his conversion.

'We live in a democracy and if he wants to believe something and he is not hurting anyone else then that is fine. That is how he was raised.'

Yesterday, a close member of the family, criticised the media for publishing an 'avalanche of misinformation' that led to his son's interest being brought into question.

Jack's mother Sally, a former books editor, angrily defended their son today.

'He is not a member of ISIS, he is very probably not the first white convert that has gone out there. He does not have a son and is not known as Abu Muhammad.

'We spoke to him yesterday and he said he had never had a weapon in his life. He went out there for humanitarian purposes to help kids in Syrian refugee camps.

'All this is absolutely ridiculous, it is shocking.'

The family said that, despite being hugely concerned for Jack's wellbeing, they knew exactly where he is in Syria but asked for the location not to be published for the sake of his safety.

'We are worried sick. He is in danger every single moment of the day,' she said.

'He is very naive and misguided. He wanted to do good in the world and wanted to see for himself.

'The fact is he did not see the danger or think about his own safety.

'We wake every single morning not knowing whether he is alive or dead.'

The family said that Jack himself had criticised the media reports about him, writing on Facebook that the papers 'got bored worrying about what colour socks certain celebrities wear and took out their frustration on me.'

It came after friends yesterday described Jack as a 'class clown' who converted to Islam after being egged on by his Muslim classmates.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, one friend - who asked to remain anonymous - said: 'I feel like he has been exploited. No one wants to fight in ISIS unless they've been brainwashed. It's really alarming how powerfully he has changed.

'He was always an atheist, pretty liberal, typical middle class kid. At school he was the class clown but didn't take it too far, he was still smart and got fair grades.

'Then he started befriending a group of Muslim boys at the school and that exposed him to Islam. I noticed he started becoming very preachy and was using Arabic, which was strange because I only ever saw him as a typical Oxford boy.

'Then he started growing a beard, becoming more reserved, deleting his photos on Facebook, he sort of disappeared into a world where he only associated with like-minded people.

'His parents were always kind and nice, very loving and providing, they lived a good life and Jack had a good upbringing.

'He did talk passionately about ISIS, but I always assumed he meant he opposed them, not that he would join them.'

Before he converted to Islam, Jack drank alcohol and occasionally smoked cannabis with his friends. He was also a fan of graffiti art, specifically Banksy, friends said.

It is thought Letts began to take an interest in the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011. Prior to converting to Islam, he was an atheist and appeared to have little interest in religion despite being christened as a child.

He went to start learning Arabic and attended the Madina Masjid, a mosque near his home in Oxford, changing his name to Ibrahim - the Arabic version of his original middle name, Abraham.

Several of his friends have claimed that the 20-year-old was radicalised in a private prayer meetings and the mosque was not responsible for the hardening of his views.

One said: 'His conversion to Islam was slow but happened quickly when it did.'

In total, more than 750 Britons have left the UK to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Up to 100 of those have been killed.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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