Two 15-year-old French boys have traveled to Syria to join the ranks of Al Qaeda-linked rebels, with one warning his parents that if they don’t hear from him again, they should assume he is dead and in “paradise,” the father of one of the boys told French media.
They are believed to be the youngest jihadi fighters who have traveled from Europe to the Syrian war zone.
The British paper the Daily Telegraph reported that the boys did not show up for school in the southwestern city of Toulouse on Jan. 6 and have not been seen since.
The father of one of the boys, identified only by his first name Hakim, told BFM TV that his son had left a note Jan. 6 which said that he was on his way to join the jihad against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Hakim had used his father’s credit card to pay for his plane ticket to Turkey, which borders Syria, and left cash to cover the cost of the ticket, the father told the French television station, according to Reuters.
Prosecutor Michel Valet confirmed the story to Reuters, saying, "I've informed the Paris anti-terrorist prosecutor because the two boys made their intention clear that they would travel to Syria via Turkey.”
The father, who did not disclose his own name during the interview, said his son had called him last Tuesday to say he was in danger in Syria and would not be able to phone again for a month.
The teen said that if his family did not hear from him then, they should assume he had been killed and that they would meet again in paradise.
"He has been brainwashed on the Internet," the father said.
The father also gave an interview to the newspaper La Depeche, saying, "From the start of December, my son was brainwashed online.”
"There were exchanges on Facebook, and he watched videos about the war in Syria. With his computer and on his phone, he was always on social media with his friend,” he said.
"He was with Al Qaeda fighters. During his last phone call to us, he was talking about the fighters as his brothers,” the father added.
Thousands of foreigners have traveled to Syria since the outbreak of hostilities in 2011, among them 700 French nationals, French President Francois Hollande said last week.
There is growing concern in Europe that those who return from the battlefront could use their terrorist training to target their home countries, a feat made easier by Europe’s open borders.
In 2012, Mohammed Merah, 23, killed seven people in Toulouse and Montauban in France after having trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His victims were three unarmed French soldiers, a rabbi and three small children at a Jewish school.