LONDON (REUTERS) - A 17-year old who left northern England to join ISIS was reported to have become Britain's youngest suicide bomber when he blew himself up in a car in northern Iraq, British media said after the militants posted pictures on social media.
The young man, who was named as Abu Yusuf al-Britani, was shown standing next to a black vehicle in photographs posted on Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts, the Guardian newspaper reported. The posts said he then took part in a suicide attack in Iraq's Salahuddin province.
He is believed to be Talha Asmal, a teenager who left West Yorkshire in March, and was thought to have joined ISIS (Islamic State in iraq and Syria), according to a statement from his family.
"Although the information within these reports has not been confirmed and the relevant UK authorities are working hard to verify the facts, we can confirm that the photographs shown of a youth purportedly named Abu Yusuf al-Britani appears to show our 17-year-old son Talha," the family of Talha Asmal said in a statement issued by West Yorkshire police on Sunday. "We are all naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us."
The Guardian went on to report the family describing their son.
"Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager," the newspaper reported themsaying. "He never harboured any ill-will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind.
"Talha's tender years and naivety were, it seems however, exploited by persons unknown, who, hiding behind the anonymity of the worldwide web, targeted and befriended Talha and engaged in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him.
"... if the press reports are accurate he was ordered to his death by so-called Isis handlers and leaders too cowardly to do their own dirty work.
Security services have estimated that at least 600 Britons have gone to Syria or Iraq to join militant groups, including the man known as "Jihadi John" who has appeared in several ISIS beheading videos.
Hundreds of other Europeans have also joined the fight.
The family said Asmal came from a close knit, hardworking, peace loving and law abiding British Muslim family, and the entire family unreservedly condemned and abhorred all acts of violence wherever they were perpetrated.
West Yorkshire police said they were aware of the reports, but were unable to comment further as the person's identity had not been confirmed.
According to media reports, ISIS said 'al-Britani'was one of four suicide bombers - with the others said to be a German, a Kuwaiti and a Palestinian - who took part in the attack.
ISIS controls swathes of territory in eastern Syria and northern Iraq where it has declared an Islamic caliphate.