He would be cute — curly hair, bandanna, British accent — if, at age 6 or 7, he wasn’t wearing army fatigues and calling for slaughter in Allah’s name.
But that is what a young boy is doing in a recently surfaced Islamic State video that features a militant some are calling the “new Jihadi John” executing five men. “We are going to go kill the kafir [non-believers] over there,” the boy says at the conclusion of the video, not yet independently verified.
Now, a man in London — the father of a woman known to have left Britain to live in Syria — has said the boy is his grandson.
“He’s my grandson,” Sunday Dare told Britain’s Channel 4. “I can’t disown him. He’s my grandson. I know him very well.”
The boy was named by some news outlets, but The Washington Post doesn’t identify juveniles allegedly involved in crimes unless they are ordered to be tried as adults. His identification also has not been confirmed by authorities. But, as always, the British news media offered a memorable nickname: “Jihadi Junior.”
As the Guardian reported, Dare said the Islamic State is “just using a small boy.”
“He doesn’t know anything,” Dare said. “He’s a small boy. They are just using him as a shield.” Of his grandson’s opinion of the Islamic State, Dare, who has spoken to him on the phone, said: “Well, he doesn’t like it over there.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to condemn the video Monday. “Well, it’s desperate stuff from an organization that really does do the most utterly despicable and ghastly acts,” he told the BBC. “… This is an organization that is losing territory. It’s losing ground.”
Dare is all-too-familiar with the toll that the Islamic State takes on some families living in Britain. A Christian migrant from Nigeria, he saw his daughter, Grace “Khadijah” Dare, 24, radicalize while at college in London. She moved to Syria in 2012, and she was soon praising the beheading of American journalist James Foley, saying she wanted to be the first woman to behead a hostage and posting photos of her young child holding an AK-47.
Talking to Channel 4, Sunday Dare had harsh words for his daughter.
“She’s going to come back and face the music because she has let herself down,” he said.
The boy known as Jihadi Junior is far from the only young person in the service of the Islamic State. Last year, an Australian extremist tweeted a photo of a 7-year-old boy, thought to be his son, holding a severed head in Syria.
“That’s my boy!” the photo’s caption said.
For children in a war zone, the Islamic State has an allure. The men in black are, at least, somewhat organized.
“When [the Islamic State] came to my town … I liked what they are wearing, they were like one herd,” a child told the advocacy group Human Rights Watch in 2014. “They had a lot of weapons. So I spoke to them, and decided to go to their training camp.”
Human Rights Watch, which reported on interviews with 25 children fighting in Syria, said that children living with militant groups grow up fast.
“One doctor described treating a boy between 10 and 12 years old whose job it was to whip prisoners held in an ISIS detention facility, according to the adult fighter who brought him,” it wrote, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the “new” Jihadi John — identified by the BBC, which talked to an unnamed “official source,” as British man Siddhartha Dhar — has posted at least one photo of himself holding a gun in one hand and and his newborn son in the other. Born in Britain, Dhar, also known as Abu Rumaysah, was known for his radical views before he was arrested for allegedly encouraging terrorism, according to the BBC. He fled to Syria in 2014 while on bail.
“As a Muslim I would like to see the U.K. governed by the Sharia,” he told the BBC in 2014. “It is far superior to democracy. I don’t really identify myself with British values. I am Muslim first, second and last.”