A British teenager was killed in a battle in Syria, his father said on Friday, as he revealed that two of his other sons have also gone to fight in the conflict.
Abdullah Deghayes, 18, whose uncle is a former detainee at the US’ Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, died earlier this month after leaving Britain to go fight in January.
Abubaker Deghayes, who learned of his son’s death via Facebook on Monday, said his other son, 20-year-old Amer, suffered a bullet wound to his stomach in the battle in which Abdullah was killed.
Abubaker Deghayes said he had traveled to Turkey earlier this year to meet two of his sons, Abdullah and 16-year-old Jafar, in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to stop them from going to Syria to fight.
Speaking to reporters outside his home in Brighton, England, Abubaker Deghayes said: “As far as I know, Abdullah went to Syria — without my consent or his mother’s consent — to fight in Syria against the dictator [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad].”
“He was killed in a battle, as far as I know,” Abubaker Deghayes said. “His brother, who is also there, is injured. The third brother who is also there is OK. He is fine.”
“I never encouraged them, nor anybody — as far as I know who is around them — encouraged them. They went of their own free will,” he added. “Of course I think, as a Muslim, that my son is a martyr. Anyone who dies for a just cause is a martyr.”
Abubaker Deghayes said his three sons were not “terrorists,” but had traveled to Syria to defend “those who are weak.”
He said they had been “stubborn” about going to Syria after viewing videos purporting to show atrocities committed there online.
“We are aware of the death of a British national and are urgently looking into it,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Abdullah Deghayes was due to begin studying at the University of Brighton. He leaves behind a twin brother, Abdur-Rahman, who is in Britain and who their father said had taken the news of his death hardest.
“He has been crying so much ... and it’s not like him to isolate himself and cry,” Abubaker Deghayes said.
About 400 Britons are believed to have gone to Syria over the past two years, British authorities believe. About 20 have died and it is believed about 250 have now returned to Britain.
British intelligence services have expressed concern about aspiring jihadists going to Syria to learn how to fire guns and build bombs, and then using their training to launch attacks on Britain.
Abdullah Deghayes’ uncle, Omar Deghayes, was held as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo between 2002 and 2007.