UK father hails son as martyr after death in Syria
The father of a teenager killed in Syria says he learned of his son's death from Facebook as he insisted that his son was a "martyr".
Abdullah Deghayes (18) – whose uncle is a former Guantánamo detainee – is believed to have died earlier this month when he was fighting alongside his brother Amer (20), who suffered a gunshot wound to his stomach.
Their brother Jafar (16) has also travelled to Syria, their father Abubaker Deghayes has confirmed.
The family only found out about Abdullah's death after a photograph was posted Facebook and had no idea that he was in Syria, believing he had gone to Libya, where he has relatives, after running away in January.
Mr Deghayes, who travelled to Turkey earlier this year to meet Abdullah and Jafar, in an attempt to stop them entering Syria, said that Abdullah had made the journey without the consent of his family "to fight Syrians against the dictator Bashar al-Assad."
Speaking outside his home in Brighton, he continued: "He was killed in a battle.
"His brother, who is also there, is injured. The third brother who is also there is OK. He is fine. I never encouraged them, nor anybody, as far as I know, who is around them encouraged them. They went of their own free will. They went without taking consent from their parents.
"I am sad for the loss of Abdullah but at the same time I can feel some comfort that he went for a just cause. The cause is to help those who are being bombed daily by Assad and killed by his bombings and air raids and soldiers for nothing except to ask for their freedom.
"I hope this was his intention, I hope he is rewarded and I hope he is in peace now."
Mr Deghayes insisted his three sons were not "terrorists" but had travelled to Syria to defend "those who are weak".
He said his sons had been "stubborn" about travelling to Syria after seeing videos of the atrocities online.
Asked whether he believed Abdullah was a martyr, Mr Deghayes replied: "Of course I think, as a Muslim, that my son is a martyr.
"Anyone who dies for a just cause is a martyr."
Mr Deghayes said his son Amer had travelled to Syria with a convoy, before Abdullah and Jafar followed later.
Mr Deghayes has been linked to extremism in the past and, when running the Al-Quds mosque from a suburban home, was accused of saying that Tony Blair was a "legitimate target" for terrorists.
He made the comment to a 'Sunday Times' reporter during an undercover sting in 2006, when police sources confirmed extremist literature had been found at the mosque and some attendees were suspected of having fought as "mercenaries" abroad.
Mr Deghayes, who was accused of taking over the mosque using intimidation against a moderate cleric, said he meant Blair was a political target.
He posted a video sermon by controversial Sheik Muhhamad al Arifi, which contained graphic images of people dying in Syria, on a social networking site, writing: "In tributes for the loss of my son Abdulah and every Shahid in Syria." The term Shahid can mean either martyr or witness.
There was also a photograph believed to show his dead son lying on the ground in military clothing shared on his Facebook page.
Mr Deghayes said young people travelling to Syria from the UK were going "on their own conviction".
He said: "Obviously the British government is concerned about terrorism and people learning how to use weapons, but why don't they ever think of it in a positive way? Maybe one day these youngsters will fight for a British government."
He added that his sons had been in trouble with police but they were not involved in any groups encouraging people in the UK to fight in Syria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)