LONDON — Members of the family of a teenage British boy who reportedly killed himself in a suicide bombing in Iraq say they are devastated by his death.
The statement from the family of 17-year-old Talha Asmal was released by police at the family's request.
"Talha comes from a close-knit, hardworking, peace-loving and law-abiding British Muslim family," the statement read. "The entire family unreservedly condemns and abhors all acts of violence."
His family said he and a close friend had been recruited online and left Dewsbury in northern England in March to link up with the extremists.
They said his naive nature was exploited by unidentified people. The family said the Islamic State group commanders who ordered him to conduct a suicide attack were "too cowardly to do their own 'dirty' work."
If Asmal's death is confirmed, he would be the youngest known British suicide bomber to have died in the conflict.
Police said Monday they cannot confirm the boy's death, which was reported by a website associated with IS.
The website said Asmal detonated a vehicle laden with explosives in a suicide bombing Saturday. It carried photographs believed to show him before the attack.
It was claimed that Asmal's attack was one of seven carried out in the city of Beiji. Details are sketchy, but IS claimed the attacks led to "tens" of deaths and injuries.
Asmal is given the nom de guerre Abu Yusuf al-Britani on the website. Police say the family is convinced their son is the teen in the photograph.
Shahid Malik, a family friend and former legislator, said it is "disturbing" to see how relaxed Asmal appears to be in the photographs taken just before his suicide mission.
"He looks at peace," Malik said. "It's like he's ready to go and meet his maker. This is a clear indication of just how successful the evil (Islamic State) groomers have been in poisoning and brainwashing Talha and kids like him."
British officials say roughly 700 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq in support of extremists there.