A US newspaper published an emotional story today about an innocent Muslim kid from London who later traveled to Syria and became one of the most publicly-savage members of Daesh, aka Islamic State.
The Washington Post’s profile Monday focused on El Shafee "Shaf" Elsheikh, a 27-year-old British citizen who is one of the “Beatles” group of Daesh militants who beheaded over two dozen foreign hostages after Daesh rose to power in parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
The group was called “The Beatles” by some of the Western hostages they had kidnapped because of their British accents.
Jihadi John, or Mohammad Emwazi, was the most well-known of the group for his role in videos showing beheadings of American journalists. Emwazi was reportedly killed in a drone strike in 2015.
Elsheikh has been in the spotlight less than Emwazi. His mother’s poignant interview in The Washington Post, however, sheds some light on the man’s path to radicalism.
The Elsheikh family immigrated to the UK from Sudan in the 1990’s.
Elsheikh’s mother, Maha Elgizouli, told the Post that for most of his life her son was a regular Londoner, supporting the Queens Park Rangers soccer team and working as a mechanic without ever attracting the attention of the authorities.
"That is not the son I raised": How a British citizen became one of the most notorious members of ISIS https://t.co/30FapFMxo6— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 23, 2016
After his older brother was sentenced to 10 years in a British prison for possessing a firearm with malicious intent, Elsheikh—whose mother says is currently living in Aleppo with his wife—started following an extremist imam, who sometimes spoke of the importance of dying for Allah.
Elsheikh influenced his younger brother Mahmoud, who eventually followed in his brother’s footsteps by departing West London for the killing fields of Iraq and Syria. Mahmoud died near Tikrit last year, Elgizouli told the Post.
“The Beatles” were known for being brutal: Former captives have described their campaign of “psychological and physical torture.”
Part of their appeal was their charisma, according to friends and family members who have spoken to the press. An acquaintance of Alex Kotey, another suspected member of the “Beatles” Daesh group, told the media that Kotey “radiates a road man influence, someone who has had a lot of experiences in life, had a lot of hardships and people younger than him, who haven't, look up to him and he can speak to people on the level.”
“He was like a politician, and he works the room,” the acquaintance said.
The mothers of jihadist militants in the Middle East typically do not give extensive interviews with the media, but in Muslim-diaspora communities in Europe, which are often more progressive than Muslim communities in the Middle East and North Africa, they do sometimes open up to journalists.
Their accounts of their children usually provide valuable insights into why young Muslim men and women leave seemingly-normal lives to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq.
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