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Mother of ‘Jihadi Jack’ says son in Syria for ‘humanitarian purposes’

The mother of a 20-year-old white British convert to Islam defended her son who has been dubbed “Jihadi Jack” over fears that he had joined the brutal Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria.

world Updated: Jan 26, 2016 08:57 IST
Guardian Syndicate
Jihadi Jack,Islamic State,Syria war
File photo of Jack Letts, the British youth who left for Syria in 2014. His mother, Sally Letts, has refuted media reports suggesting that Jack had joined the Islamic State. (Picture courtesy: Facebook)

The mother of a young man dubbed “Jihadi Jack” following reports he was the first white Briton to join Islamic State has said it is ridiculous to suggest that her son is a terrorist.

Sally Letts said her son Jack, 20, from Oxford, was not a member of the terrorist organisation and had gone to Syria to do humanitarian work.

Over the weekend it was reported that her son now used the name Ibrahim Abu Mohammed and was believed to be living in Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State.

She said she had spoken to him on Sunday and confirmed he had left for Syria in 2014. But she said the press had got it entirely wrong.

“We spoke to him yesterday and he said he had never had a weapon in his life. He went out there for humanitarian purposes to help kids in Syrian refugee camps.”

“It is not as if he is hiding anything – he tells us what he has for breakfast. All this is absolutely ridiculous, it is shocking,” she told the Evening Standard.

She said reports he was married may be true but reports that he had a son were not. “He is not a member of IS; he is very probably not the first white convert that has gone out there. He does not have a son and is not known as Abu Mohammed,” she said.

His mother said the family were worried sick about his welfare because he was in a war-torn country. “He is in danger every single moment of the day,” she said.

“He is very naive, very misguided. He wanted to do good in the world and wanted to see for himself. The fact is he did not see the danger or think about his own safety. We wake every single morning not knowing whether he is alive or dead.”

Letts, a former student of Cherwell School, Oxford, was said to have become interested in Islam following the Arab spring of 2011 and started attending the Madina mosque in central Oxford.

His father, Canadian-born John Letts, is a farmer known for his organic wheat.

Jack Letts been under investigation by police for the past year and his mother said the family house had been raided by anti-terror police repeatedly, with computers and a mobile phone seized. But the family said the police had no evidence he had done anything wrong.

Sally Letts said the family, who were “pretty well secular”, were not opposed to their son’s conversion. “He is entitled to choose his religion.”

When he left Britain in 2014 he told his parents he was going to Kuwait to study Arabic, but he subsequently told them he had gone to Syria. “We were in utter shock. We have been trying to convince him to come back,” she said.

She said he was initially working with refugees in Syria, where millions have been displaced by the war, and most recently had been helping in a hospital.

She said he categorically denied being a member of IS when asked by the family. “He repeatedly said he is not with IS, and he does not lie. He believes it is un-Islamic to lie and if he does he will go straight to hell, so there is no doubt whatsoever.”

“He has worked in a hospital, done some teaching, done some translating… He is integrated with the population.”

She said the press made up the moniker “Jihadi Jack” because it suited them, not because of any evidence.

“There are civilians out there despite great risk to themselves and are just assumed to be terrorists. They [the media] have lost Jihadi John so Jihadi Jack fits perfectly.”

The imam of Madina mosque, Ahmed Qazi, told the Guardian that he did not remember Jack Letts. He said they had more than 1,000 worshippers and that the mosque “condemns Isis”.

The Counter Terror Command at the Metropolitan police said it did not comment on individual cases, but said it investigated everyone who returned to the UK to establish if crimes had been committed or whether a person was a threat to the UK.

First Published: Jan 26, 2016 08:50 IST