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16-year-old Trinidad boy caught fighting with ISIS

By Trinidad Guardian

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A member of ISIS in this file photo.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A 16-year-old Trinidad and To­ba­go na­tion­al has been cap­tured on the bat­tle­field in Syr­ia with fight­ers for the Is­lam­ic State, a re­port in the New York Times says.

The boy was ini­tial­ly thought to be an Amer­i­can but he was lat­er con­firmed to be a T&T teenag­er by US of­fi­cials and the boy’s sis­ter.

The re­port states that the teenag­er was tak­en from T&T to the war zone when he was 12 by his moth­er, who con­vert­ed to Is­lam af­ter be­com­ing ro­man­ti­cal­ly in­volved with a rad­i­calised man.

The ar­ti­cle quot­ed the boy’s old­er sis­ter (name omit­ted) in a phone in­ter­view. It said that af­ter a four-year si­lence, she heard from them for the first time last month when her moth­er con­tact­ed her on Face­book Mes­sen­ger and sent a se­ries of au­dio record­ings that said the two were alive and plead­ing for help. She said they were hid­ing some­where in Syr­ia.

“I need mon­ey to help us get out of here,” the moth­er (name omit­ted) said in one of the record­ings she sent to her daugh­ter, which was shared with The New York Times.

“If not me, your broth­er. He is in­no­cent.”

The Amer­i­can-backed mili­tia that an­nounced the boy’s cap­ture on Wednes­day said he was among three Amer­i­can cit­i­zens ap­pre­hend­ed in re­cent days in the bat­tle zone fight­ing for the Is­lam­ic State, which is al­so called ISIS.

But Pen­ta­gon and State De­part­ment of­fi­cials sub­se­quent­ly said on­ly one of the three — War­ren Christo­pher Clark, 34, a for­mer sub­sti­tute teacher from Texas — was an Amer­i­can.

The 16-year-old, who was er­ro­neous­ly iden­ti­fied in a news re­lease from the Amer­i­can-backed mili­tia as Soulay Noah Su, an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, is ac­tu­al­ly (name omit­ted) from T&T, the boy’s sis­ter said. She recog­nised him in a pho­to re­leased by the mili­tia, the Syr­i­an De­mo­c­ra­t­ic Forces, she said.

A team led by Hany Farid, a Dart­mouth Col­lege com­put­er sci­ence pro­fes­sor, used fa­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion soft­ware to com­pare the pho­to with im­ages of the boy post­ed on so­cial me­dia and con­clud­ed with “high con­fi­dence” that the two were the same per­son.

Ac­cord­ing to the New York Times ar­ti­cle, the sis­ter, 23, said her moth­er and broth­er had fall­en un­der the sway of a Trinida­di­an man who even­tu­al­ly per­suad­ed them in 2014 to trav­el to the bud­ding ISIS caliphate.

“Once they got to Syr­ia, they told me that this guy took their doc­u­ments and de­stroyed them, and said, ‘You are now go­ing to stay here and die,’” the sis­ter said.

In the au­dio record­ings the moth­er sent to her daugh­ter, she said, “Every­one wants to be blam­ing me, that I did bad things to my chil­dren. I just mar­ried a man.”

Ac­cord­ing to a data­base main­tained by Si­mon Cot­tee, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Kent crim­i­nol­o­gist, the moth­er and son were part of a group of 10 peo­ple tak­en to Syr­ia by a man (name omit­ted); al­so in­clud­ed were the man’s sec­ond wife, two of his daugh­ters and three oth­er boys, Cot­tee said.

Af­ter de­part­ing in Sep­tem­ber 2014, Ham­let ap­peared in ISIS pro­pa­gan­da, in­clud­ing in a pho­to spread in the ter­ror group’s on­line mag­a­zine and in a video in which he is shown on his stom­ach, peer­ing through the scope of a ri­fle.

“In my re­search on ISIS in Trinidad, one of my most strik­ing find­ings is the block na­ture of the mi­gra­tions to Syr­ia and Iraq,” said Cot­tee, who is work­ing on a book on ji­hadists from T&T, which has one of the world’s high­est per capi­ta rates of re­cruit­ment to ISIS. Cot­tee first no­ticed the cap­tured teenag­er had a sim­i­lar name to one in his data­base on Wednes­day.

“It wasn’t just in­di­vid­u­als go­ing,” he told the New York Times.

“It was en­tire fam­i­lies look­ing to re­make their lives in the so-called caliphate.”

Lit­tle is known about the moth­er and son’s time in Syr­ia and the moth­er’s cur­rent where­abouts is un­known. The ar­ti­cle notes that the boy’s Face­book time­line, which is sparse, re­veals on­ly a hand­ful of pho­tos that speak to pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ty. Of greater in­ter­est to him ap­pear to be posts about flashy high­top sneak­ers.

Be­cause the boy was 12 when his moth­er took him to Syr­ia, “He didn’t have any say or agency in the mat­ter,” Cot­tee said.

“So he is a vic­tim as much as a per­pe­tra­tor in the Syr­i­an ji­had.”

The posts by his moth­er on her Face­book page, iden­ti­fied as au­then­tic by her daugh­ter, in­di­cat­ed more agency in her own rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion as well as a will­ing­ness to sup­port her son’s ex­plo­ration of mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties.

In a post in 2013, a year be­fore they left for Syr­ia, the boy’s moth­er con­grat­u­lat­ed him on his ex­cel­lent grades. A year lat­er, she liked a pho­to that her son had post­ed, pre­sum­ably from Syr­ia, of a mount­ed ri­fle. The fol­low­ing year, she liked a pho­to show­ing him in what ap­peared to be mil­i­tary fa­tigues. But in one of the fi­nal mes­sages she sent to her daugh­ter last month, the moth­er said she did not want her son to fight.

“Yes­ter­day some peo­ple stopped him and they want him to go and fight,” she said in the au­dio mes­sage.

“I don’t want my child to be crip­pled.”

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