Briton killed in Syria was straight-A student who became ISIS militant

Reyaad Khan (right), 21, was killed in a precision air strike on Aug 21 by a remotely piloted aircraft.
Reyaad Khan (right), 21, was killed in a precision air strike on Aug 21 by a remotely piloted aircraft. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

LONDON - Six years ago, Reyaad Khan was a straight-A student who aspired to be Britain's first Asian prime minister. But last month, he became the first citizen to be killed by the airforce outside a British war zone.

Khan, 21, was killed in a precision air strike on Aug 21 by a remotely piloted aircraft as he was travelling in a vehicle in Raqqah, Syria. Another British militant Ruhul Amin, 26, also died.

A third British national Junaid Hussain, 21, was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on Aug 24.

 

Prime Minister David Cameron said Khan and Hussain actively recruited sympathisers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and sought to orchestrate barbaric attacks against the west, including a number of planned terrorist attacks in Britain, the BBC reported.

Khan grew up in a terrace house in Cardiff on the same road as Abdul Miah, one of the ringleaders of a foiled plot to unleash a Mumbai-style terror attack on London, the Telegraph reported.

Former schoolmates at Cantonian High School remembered him as a talented student who had moderate views and socialised well with people of all backgrounds, according to the newspaper. He also had political ambitions and said on Facebook in 2009 that he wanted to become Britain's first Asian prime minister.

In 2010, however, his views became more extreme, according to the Telegraph. In an interview, he argued that the government had wasted resources on "illegal wars" and said more money ought to be spent on young people to help prevent them from being led down the "wrong path".

"The world can be a lovely place but you've just got to get rid of the evil. If everyone could choose the good, the evil will go away," he was quoted as saying.

In 2013, friends noticed his interest in religion appeared to have intensified and he successfully applied to study at the Madinah University in Saudi Arabia - although he did not take up the position, the report said.

The Guardian reported that by November that year, Khan had travelled to Syria, using the name Abu Dujana, and he started posting graphic and satirically dark messages on his social media accounts. On Twitter, he boasted of the murders he had committed, saying "executed many prisoners yesterday". In another tweet, he wrote: "Anyone want to sponsor my explosive belt? Gucci, give me a shout."

In June 2014, Khan was seen in a 13-minute ISIS propaganda video along with two militants. In the video, he said: "You can be here in these golden times, fighting, or you can be on the sidelines commentating. It's your choice."

His friends and family in Cardiff reacted with horror to the circumstances of his death, the Telegraph reported. Mohammed Islam, a family friend and community leader, described Khan's family as respectable and law abiding and they worship at Jalalia mosque in the Welsh capital.

"This is very shocking. It's so sad for the family and devastating for the whole community. We never expected it to come to this," he said.