A young Westerner dubbed “Britain’s White Jihadi” has been identified as an 18-year old math whiz named Jake from Australia. At the request of his family, the media have not released his last name.
The news comes as Australian authorities nabbed two local teens reportedly attempting to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State. The two, identified as brothers, aged 16 and 17, were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection officers who were suspicious of their intentions.
Both were given court attendance notices and released to the custody of their parents. The case was referred to Australia’s Customs Counter Terrorism Unit.
In addition, a recent poll conducted in Australia and set to be released this week shows that a significant percentage of local Muslims think that terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, have legitimate grievances against the West.
As reported by a local newspaper, the Courier Mail, the results of the study “reveal the terrorists’ relentless propaganda war is tapping into Islamic community angst over Australia’s counter-terrorism crackdown.”
“One of the key messages of terrorist groups … is that Muslims are a victimized and suppressed minority,” University of Queensland researcher Dr. Adrian Cherney said.
The study shows that twenty percent of Australian Muslims agree with the complaints against the West of terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Media released details as to the identity of the “White Jihadi,” the supposed Briton who appeared last December sitting in front of an Islamic State flag and sporting an assault rifle. He was flanked by two Islamic State fighters. With his slender build and delicate looks, the picture belied his age.
The British media dubbed him “Britain’s White Jihadi” after a Twitter account belonging to Abu Dawud identified him as Jonathon Edwards from Britain. Dawud tweeted that that after missing the deadline for applying to universities in the UK, the young man joined the Islamic State.
The British media ran with the story which was later debunked by Dawud himself, who gleefully declared he had “trolled” and “humiliated” the British media.
An investigation in Australia produced pictures of Jake from high school, as well as statements by friends, that positively identified the young man as being from Australia.
Jake, who converted to Islam at age 16, was a gifted student who excelled in math.
However, after converting to Islam, he dropped out of school mid-way through his last year. After buying a one-way ticket to Istanbul, he travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State.
Friends described him as shy, “really bright” and “quite politically aware for his age.” Another friend commented that Jake was interested in different cultures, but as a person, “he never seemed very happy.” He was generally quiet, but when he did talk, his friends say, it was about math.
One former friend from school, who asked to remain anonymous, said "He was not pushed into IS [Islamic State] and was not pushed into Islam. People can make their own decisions and this was one of his …he felt that it was right for him … He had done sufficient research to believe it was the right step in life.”
The friend added, “He was obviously a believer in Islam and wanted to fulfil what he believed was his duties to the religion."
Sometime in August, Jake closed down all of his social media accounts and travelled – unbeknownst to his parents – on a one-way ticket to Istanbul.
Two months later and now using the Islamic first names of Abdur Raheem and Abu Abdullah, he contacted his parents, telling them he was in Iraq training for a “martyrdom mission” as a suicide bomber.
In February, his parents heard from him again. He explained he had changed assignments because he was “too scared to do it and prefers being a soldier."
Update: Unconfirmed reports have emerged that "Jake," who has since been identified as Jake Bilardi, carried out a suicide attack in Iraq for the Islamic State. In addition, a blog titled "From Melbourne to Ramadi: My Journey," has been attributed to the Melbourne teenager, due to a variety of identifying details. In the online post, he described how he planned to bomb Melbourne before he joined the Islamic State.
After the blog was published, local police searched Bilardi's home and found chemicals which could have been used to make a bomb.
Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop also said that Bilardi was “on the radar of our intelligence agencies” and that authorities had cancelled his passport in October.