Family of teenage jihadist Muhammad Mehdi Hassan speak of devastation

Muhammed Mehdi Hassan posted this picture on his social media account. Credit: Family handout.

The family of Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, the teenage jihadi killed fighting in Kobani over the weekend have spoken of their devastation at his death, and have criticised the government for making it more difficult for young people fighting in Syria to return to their families in the UK.

The 19-year-old travelled to Syria from his home in Portsmouth with a group of friends who called themselves the "Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys."

Watch ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar's full report:

Of the group of five friends (pictured below), three have now been killed fighting for Isis, one is in prison in the UK after being convicted of terrorism offences, and one is believed to still be in Syria fighting.

His family first heard of his death after pictures of his body appeared in social media.

His uncle Muslim Khan, speaking exclusively to ITV News said Hassan wanted to come back to the UK, but was fearful of criminal prosecution and a lengthy prison sentence if he did. He said the family are devastated by news of his death, as well as the manner in which the news was broken.

He called on the government to give more support to families who are trying to bring their young men home from fighting jihad in Syria.

Speaking to International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar on Friday, just hours before news of his death circulated on Twitter, Hassan's mother said the family were still reeling from his decision to go and fight in Syria.

She said her studious son was greatly impacted by the images of the brutal crackdown on democracy protesters by Syrian president Bashar al Assad, citing this as one of the reasons he ended up fighting the bloody war of jihad so far away from home.

Like many young European fighters, he documented his role fighting on the frontline for the Islamist group on social media. His Twitter account has been quiet since October 17.

Mehdi was attending sixth form college repeating his A-levels when he left for Syria, as his mother explained, as he obtained two grade As and one B, and wanted to have all As.

He previously attended a private Catholic school in Hampshire, and excelled, his family said. He was planning to continue his studies at university, and his mother spoke of her immense pride in his academic ability.

Mahdi Hassan as a boy. Credit: Family handout

Before hearing news of her son's death, she rejected the theory that those fighting in Syria were from "dysfunctional" families, saying her middle-class son, with a "beautiful, prosperous future ahead of him", had everything to live for.

She says she knew he had more free time as he was only taking one A-level, but had absolutely no idea what her "loving, gentle, kind boy" was getting involved in.

Hassan's mother said she thinks her son was naive when he first went to fight against Assad, having had "his heart melted" by the images of suffering endured by the Syrian people.

On Friday she said he was hopeful she would she him again, but he was nervous about coming back to the UK, for fear of ending up in jail.

He had originally said he had only intended to stay for three months, and had instructed his mother to tell his college he was just on a "break" and would return to take his exams.

As time went on, his mother said, this started to change, and there were a number of "obstacles" preventing him from leaving.

In a statement confirming that gruesome pictures of his body on social media where authentic, the family said he had expressed his intention to return home, but was worried about the repercussions.

In conversation last week, Hassan's mother hinted at these discussions, describing the family's situation as "a nightmare" from which she cannot awake.

Hassan's uncle urged other families trapped in the "nightmare" they were enduring not to give up hope that their loved ones could come home.