Do you know how much it hurts to raise someone and watch them grow and suddenly they’re just gone? says Ahmed Muthana, 57, a retired electronics engineer in Wales whose two sons Nasser, 20, and Aseel, 17, have gone to fight for Islamic State.
His studious older son was accepted into medical school.
“The little one (Aseel) wanted to be an Olympic swimmer and an English teacher. Nasser liked science and wanted to be a doctor,” said their father.
Then, without notice, the young men vanished.
“Nasser told us he was going to Birmingham, and the next thing we know, he is in Syria,” he says. “Aseel said he had a test and suddenly he’s in Cyprus.”
The Muthana family were thrust into the spotlight this week when Ahmed Muthana told journalists he believed Nasser was one of the Islamic State fighters in a video showing beheadings.
The father now says he was initially mistaken: although his sons are fighting with Islamic State, they were not among the men shown in the video beheading Syrian soldiers. But it has not relieved his sorrow or altered his verdict on his sons, who are dead to him.
Hundreds of young men from Western countries are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State fighters who have seized swathes of those two countries, carrying out mass killings that have shocked the world.
In France, journalists descended on Tuesday on the Normandy village of Bosc-Roger-en-Roumois to film the house with the well-manicured lawn, where Maxime Hauchard, 22, grew up a stone’s throw from the local church.
“He had an ordinary childhood in an ordinary household,” his uncle, Pascal Hauchard, told Le Parisien daily. “What was it that pushed my nephew into this barbaric madness?”
French police believe Hauchard, a Normandy native who converted to Islam as a teen, is one of the militants in the beheading video.