The Brighton jihadists: bullied brothers who went into battle

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What drove a gang of football-loving British teenagers to fight in Syria? In his powerful new book, No Return, award-winning journalist Mark Townsend pieces together their tragic story

Much has been written about Britons who fought in Syria, but little truly explains who these characters were, what made them tick. Or what actually happened when they disappeared into the byzantine politics of its brutal war. No Return tracks five teenage friends from Brighton who stepped into its chaos. All were killed except one. The survivor, Amer Deghayes, is the longest-serving Briton in Syria since the fighting began and offers a unique account of a ceaseless, shifting conflict.

Equally crucial are those he left behind. I learned that more than 30 Brightonians – the largest identified group of potential jihadists in western Europe – had discussed plans to join him. All were between 13 and 18 years of age, some were girls, most were white, working-class Islamic converts from the forgotten estates of east Brighton.

Each day, more refugees arrived, all with fresher, more brutish accounts of Assad’s men

What made me angry was that nothing was done about it. My son was just another dead jihadi. They let them go to die

This is an edited extract from No Return: The True Story of How Martyrs Are Made by Mark Townsend (Guardian Faber, £12.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15

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