A Sydney teenager who ran away to join jihadists in Syria is the pawn of terrorists who “groomed” him just like pedophiles groom victims, a terror expert says.
Abdullah Elmir has turned up in a propaganda video for the IS group, also known as ISIL, after disappearing from his Bankstown home in June, saying he was going fishing.
In the clip, the 17-year-old threatens Australia and any nation that would try to stand in the group’s way.
Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre says Elmir was recruited by wanted terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an Australian based in Syria.
He says terror recruiters lure targets by making friends through social media, like many sexual predators.
“It’s like sexual predation,” Prof Barton told AAP.
“Somebody might strike up a friendship in an online chat forum and present themselves in a different fashion – to try to get them into their web.
“By the time they actually meet the people they’re speaking with, they may be in too deep to know better.”
He says the boy appears as a “pawn in the machine” in the chilling video.
“He thinks he’s the star … but the reality is, his new friends have got him a one-way ticket,” he said.
“He’s not in charge of his own destiny at all, he’s being used.”
Prof Barton says young people are the easiest to radicalise.
“Teenagers, 20-somethings, particularly young men more than young women, are vulnerable to making rash judgments,” he said.
“And they tend to be more rebellious toward (older) generations and sceptical of establishment figures.”
It is believed former Kings Cross bouncer Mr Baryalei, 33, recruited Elmir through western Sydney street preaching group Parramatta Street Dawah.
“He’s said to have recruited 30 plus young people – mostly in western Sydney through Street Dawah” Prof Barton said.