Pictures of a man from Crawley suspected to be Britain’s first suicide bomber in Syria have emerged showing him looking relaxed and smiling with local children.
The images were sent by Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, from Syria to his family in the Langley Green area of Crawley, West Sussex.
In one picture, he is seen wearing pink Minnie Mouse-style ears while he cuddles a child. In another, he is pictured kneeling surrounded by children as they give the peace sign.
The pictures were taken at a refugee camp on the Turkey/Syria border, according to Arif Syed, 59, a community leader in Crawley, where Majeed was born.
Married father-of-three Majeed is suspected of driving a lorry into a jail in Aleppo and detonating a bomb last week.
Officials have not confirmed the identity of the bomber amid reports that a UK jihadi, who used the name Abu Suleiman al-Britani, carried out the bombing.
Counter-terrorism officers have searched Majeed’s home in Martyrs Avenue – which is also the ex-home of schoolgirl Sarah Payne’s killer Roy Whiting, according to neighbours.
Majeed, known as Waheed, left Britain six months ago, telling his family he was going on a humanitarian mission to Syria.
Arif Syed, a community leader in Crawley, said Majeed would phone or Skype his family every three days, but communication was lost with him about seven days ago.
When news emerged about the suicide bombing in Syria, the family of Majeed – who is of Pakistani descent – started to panic, he added.
Mr Syed, 59, said he hoped to learn that Majeed was not behind the attack in Aleppo. He said: “We have got our hopes high.
“We are praying that he will walk through the door. It’s a good possibility that he’s still alive and well, and is just not communicating.
“We live with this hope until the authorities confirm, or we get eye-witnesses that say it was him. We strongly hope and believe that he is alive and well, and that he will join his family.”
Majeed’s uncle, Mohammad Jamil, 65, said Majeed – who is a father of two boys and a girl aged 18, 16 and 12 – had never shown any sign of extremism.
But this week extremist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed told the London Evening Standard that Majeed was “a very dear brother”.
He claimed Majeed had been an active student and valued member of the banned extremist Al-Muhajiroun organisation between 1996 and 2004 and had wanted to further the “Muslim cause”. Bakri said Majeed would organise his sermons in Crawley and record the lectures and distribute them.
He said: “He was a good brother. He was someone who was always at hand to help people.
“He wanted to study Islam and wanted to know what it was to be a good Muslim. He was also very interested in the issue of how we could establish an Islamic state.”
It is thought to be the first time a Briton has staged a suicide attack in the war-torn state, where rising numbers of UK-born extremists have gone to fight.
UK counter-terrorism teams have grown increasingly concerned about the trend of young Britons travelling to Syria to train to fight with jihadi groups, and the potential that they could return and stage attacks on UK soil.
Sussex Police have said that their investigations were ongoing as tensions in the Crawley Muslim community are said to be high over the issue.
Chief Inspector Justina Beeken said: “The inquiries by the South East Counter Terrorism Unit are ongoing and we are closely liaising with them and the community in the town.
“There has been no formal identification of the man and therefore we cannot confirm who he is or where he is from.
“There has been a lot of media and social media coverage around Syria and we are working with the local community to reassure and engage with them regarding this. We are a community which always pulls together and supports each other.”