British “Jihadi Jack” refuted “awkward” reports of him joining ISIS
A former Oxford schoolboy dubbed “Jihadi Jack” has dismissed reports that he is a member of Isis and accused the media of demonising young Britons who convert to Islam – in messages seen exclusively by The Independent.
In his first comments since he was accused of being the first white British man to go to Syria to fight for Isis, 20-year-old Jack Letts denied that he had been radicalised and mocked suggestions that he was fighting for the barbaric Islamist group.
“Its sort of awkward when the media thinks your ISIS and your not. Thinks you have a son and you dont. Thinks your married when your not,” he wrote.
“Mabye they got bored worrying about what colour socks certain celebrities wear and took out the frustration on me?”
Mr Letts converted to Islam as a teenager and left his home in Oxford more than a year ago. It was claimed over the weekend that he now living in Syria under the name Abu Mohammed, and that he is married to a woman from Fallujah, Iraq, and has a young son.
But in private Facebook posts seen by The Independent, Mr Letts, who now calls himself Jack Ibrahim Letts, accused the press of publishing lies about him because of his Islamic faith.
“The formula with the media is simple: English guy became muslim + went to the middle east + followed islam = ISIS + eats babies x evil,” he wrote.
He also hinted that others had obtained access to his Facebook account, and may have posted material that gave the false impression that he had been radicalised.
“It doesnt help, admittedly, that bare [lots of] different people have used my fb account (some of whom are extreme etc..and only got my password through one guy I stupidly trusted).”
And responding to claims he has met Omar Hussain, the former supermarket worker from High Wycombe who left Britain to fight for Isis in 2014, he said: “I just read that I met with some guy called umar in some article. First time I learn this amongst the other lies..”
Making light of some of the newspaper reports, he added: “One of the funniest articles was the one were the last sentence was ‘Jack Letts and ISIS have been contacted for comment. Like me and ISIS have like a shared office in which we recieve requests for comment and were still thinking about whether to reply or not.”
Mr Letts posted the comments on Sunday, Subsequent media reports have been illustrated with a photograph, posted by Mr Letts last May, in which he is posing in a camoflage t-shirt front of the Tabqa Dam, 25 miles from the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.
He is the latest example of the continuing flow of Britons to Syria, with more than 700 having travelled there to date.
Mr Letts went to Cherwell School in Oxford, where he enjoyed sports and was known for his interest in politics. He is thought to have started to take an interest in the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011.
A former classmate told The Independent: “Jack was a popular schoolboy – he is known as funny, energetic and loud, always surrounded by a large group of friends. He was well known by his teachers and fellow pupils as an outspoken and politically active student.”
They added: “He was heavily involved in student journalism and reporting on his local community. He is well known by teachers.”
His former classmate recalled how Mr Letts, who supported Liverpool Football Club, was “a bubbly person, although he was known to tease other pupils.”
Describing the reaction to reports of Mr Lett having joined the terror group, they said: “His friends were shocked to hear that he had allegedly joined ISIS. Many of them had posted Facebook statuses asking for further information and most of them, even his close friends, don’t seem to known exactly where he is.”
Mr Letts had told his parents that he was going to study Arabic in Kuwait when he left Britain in 2014.
His mother, Sally, dismissed reports that her son had gone to Syria to fight for Isis as “absolutely ridiculous.” He was there to do humanitarian work, she claimed.
“He is not a member of Isis, 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 told the Evening Standard.
“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.”
His mother added: “It is not as if he is hiding – he tells us what he has for breakfast. All this is absolutely ridiculous, it is shocking.”
Her son was known to counter-terror police, who had searched the family home “repeatedly” since he left in 2014. “They have said there is no evidence he has done anything wrong,” she said.
In the meantime, his parents are “worried sick” and his mother, a former book editor, said: “We wake every single morning not knowing whether he is alive or dead.”