LONDON — His father was assistant director on Hollywood movies like Rambo, Braveheart, and Indiana Jones, but he obviously didn’t inherit the action hero genes.
Lucas Kinney, an expensively educated college dropout, converted to Islam, smuggled himself into Syria, and joined al Qaeda’s terror network. He made his small-screen debut this week in a web video that shows the white British citizen moaning about ISIS being too mean.
In a scene shot in northern Syria, Kinney whines about fellow al Qaeda terrorists being blown up by rival ISIS jihadis when they were least expecting it.
In a well-spoken English accent, he complains that the al Qaeda fighters were hit during the holy month of Ramadan while they were still tired “after a long, hard battle with the regime.”
The video for the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate, was purportedly shot inside the Salim Masjid mosque in Ariha and shows blood-smeared walls and broken glass. “From the force of the explosion here, a number of the brothers were sent flying out of this window,” says Kinney, who appears to be fighting back tears.
Back in rural England, Kinney’s mother fears his blood will be spilled next. She claims that her son, now 26 with the nom de guerre Abu Basir al-Britani, wanted to be a Catholic priest when he was a child.
He is now the first white British jihadi fighting in Syria.
Deborah Phipps said she was concerned that Prime Minister David Cameron might order a drone strike against her boy after an abrupt change in Britain’s policy toward citizens who quit Britain to fight in Syria.
“Lucas is a target,” she told the Daily Mail. “I’m glad he’s associated with al Qaeda rather than [ISIS], but obviously I worry.”
Phipps is now divorced from Kinney’s father, British-American Patrick, but they raised the child together. Lucas was born in West London around the time Patrick was working with Steven Spielberg as second assistant director on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The family lived outside London, where the young boy would follow his father to regular church services. Lucas attended Catholic school.
When his parents divorced, his father returned to the U.S. and Lucas and his mother became expats because of his new stepfather’s work. They lived in Saudi Arabia and then Egypt, with Lucas attending elite private schools favored by foreign families.
While he was at school in Cairo, Kinney joined the school theatrical troop and played guitar with a number of bands, one of which was called Hannah Has Herpes.
“He’s very bright, very talented, very musical, very artistic, good at anything creative,” his mother told the Daily Mail. “In Cairo he was very social, had lots of friends, and was very easygoing. He was in bands and behaved like a typical teenager. I wasn’t particularly worried about him.”
He passed his school exams and was accepted to Leeds University in England, but he lasted just a year before dropping out in 2009 and moving to Vienna, where his father had relocated from Florida.
It was there, his mother believes, that he was radicalized.
Now in Syria, Kinney has become the latest face of the Nusra Front. His videos seem designed to compete against ISIS in the Western-looking online propaganda war.
Standing amid the rubble of northern Syria, near Aleppo, Kinney asks to speak directly to members of the rival jihadi group—adding air quotes when he mentions the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “What about the father, the mother, the child sitting in their homes? These are the very oppressed Muslims that myself and you left your houses to defend,” he said. “How can you turn your guns away from the Kuffar and towards the Muslims?”
An AK-47 is slung over his shoulder and ammo bursts from his camouflaged belt, along with a bright green-and-white toothbrush. “He’s always been very good at doing his teeth,” said his mother.