Cardiff jihadi told mum he’d be back in hours as he flew to Syria

Cardiff jihadi Aseel Muthana has told for the first time how he came to flee the city of his birth to join his brother fighting with terror group Islamic State in the Middle East.

The 24-year-old former Fitzalan High schoolboy said he was on his way to Syria when his mum rang to say police had turned up looking for him at the family home in Butetown, Cardiff.

Counter-terror officers were already aware that the younger Muthana boy, whose elder brother Nasser had already gone to join Isis with friend Reyaad Khan, was at risk of radicalisation and he has been quizzed by counter-terror officers.

The Mirror reported that he got the call in Cyprus while en route to Syria – where he would hook up with his jihadi older brother Nasser.

Muthana, who left Cardiff aged 17, said of the call from his family home in Cardiff: “My mum phoned and said, ‘Where are you?’ I told her I was on my way home and would be there in a few hours.

“She said the police had been to the house asking for me and I had better go home.”

Speaking to the Mirror from his cell in Rojava, where he is being held by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Army, Muthana told of how he planned his journey to the war-torn country amid scrutiny from British authorities and interventions by his concerned parents.

And he said the cash for his journey came from part-time jobs and saving up benefits.

(Image: Rowan Griffiths)
Chris Hughes interviews Muthana
(Image: Rowan Griffiths)

Yesterday, the Sunday Mirror revealed how Muthana seemed to lie throughout a 90-minute interview about never having witnessed violence during seven years in Syria.

He claimed that despite being accused of serving as an IS recruiter, using social media to poison minds, he was just an interpreter and never fired a gun for the terror group.

But he showed little or no remorse for its victims – and admitted he was “curious” to see men hurled from rooftops in sickening executions. And he also blamed everything on brother Nasser, killed in a 2015 drone strike, saying he made the posts in his name.

Muthana made his journey to Syria in 2013, aged 17, after spending weeks plotting how to dodge police.

Months of grooming on Skype by Nasser, an IS fighter in Syria, had sealed his determination to join the death cult. But he knew he was firmly on the radar of anti-terror police.

He said: “I was convinced I was going to get caught by the British authorities. They would come to my house and that made me scared.

“It was people from the Prevent scheme and the police. It was a terror unit. They took statements off me.

“And they would ask me about my brother… what he was doing, about me and my beliefs.”

He claims he saved up £300 from part-time jobs, including selling ice cream, but much of the money for his journey came from benefits. And he secretly got a new passport after his mum confiscated his travel ID amid fears he wanted to go to Syria.

Muthana admitted: “I was getting Education Maintenance Allowance of £30 a week. My mum took my passport so I went to the passport office and told them I lost my old passport.

“I took a coach to Gatwick and flew to Cyprus, getting a return ticket to avoid attention, and I had a suitcase full of clothes. Once in Cyprus, I thought I was being followed. But then my mum phoned.”

Nasser had told him to go to Adana in southern Turkey and then on to Urfa, where he would be picked up by an IS smuggler.

The smuggler picked him up from his cheap hotel and drove him through the border with Syria, from Akcacale in Turkey to Tel Abiad, just yards inside the war-torn country.

(Image: Rowan Griffiths)

There is no way of knowing if Muthana, who says he is desperate to be jailed in the UK, is lying or if some his claims are true.

But the Mirror has shown its interview with him to a former British military intelligence officer, who believes he shows signs of having had training in how to behave during interviews with the police or press.

The source said: “From his body language, you can tell he gets anxious when asked about his sensitive issues, like being accused of violence – an indicator that he is likely not telling the truth.

“At other times, he is trying too hard to emphasise his sincerity, offering some titbit of information in the hope that you will back off, to try and show he is trying to be helpful.

“Don’t forget that many of the senior IS leaders, long-term veterans of military campaigns and terrorism, had served in Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi security system.

“They would know a great deal about how to indoctrinate and teach people how to counter interrogations if they were ever caught.”

WalesOnline – Cardiff