This piece appeared on VICE in February 2018.
They were British, all four of them. It was undeniable. They kept their faces hidden and talked about their hatred of the West, but the unmistakable accents meant the Raqqa prison captives knew one thing about their ISIS jailers. They were British, so they called them “the Beatles”.
The hostages were not to know it, but their jailers had much more in common than the way they spoke. The four grew up within a few miles of each other in west London, walking the same streets in and around Ladbroke Grove, mixing mosque attendance with football and video games.
All four would become enraptured by extremist ideas in their twenties. Having failed to find a satisfying role in adult life in London or to reconcile their Muslim and British identities, each headed for an almighty battle overseas – one that would end all possibility of building an ordinary life back home.
In Syria, they would turn to brutality and mayhem. The US government has stated that the group were responsible for beatings, mock executions and the beheading of more than 27 people.
So just how did four British boys come to wage violence so despicable their nation would disown them? And what can their stories tell us about the fatal steps people take on the road to radicalisation?
Read more at VICE.