COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Three days after an NBC News report named two central Ohio siblings as Americans who joined ISIS, those who knew the brother and sister find the news hard to believe.
“To be honest, I’m still kind of in a little bit of disbelief,” said a friend of the brother. “I just kind of sit back and go ‘Wow, one of my friends joined ISIS.'”
According to the NBC News report, Rasel Raihan joined the extremist group with his sister and brother-in-law.
The friend said he became close friends with Raihan several years ago, as the two did Lego robotics together.
“He [Raihan] was really looking into being an engineer at some point,” the friend explained. “He was also talking to me a little bit about becoming a doctor at some point. He was one of those guys when you first saw him and met him and really got to talk to him, you’re like he’s definitely going to be able to do that. This guys just like off the charts, crazy intelligent.”
While smart, the friend said Raihan was always humble.
The friend told NBC4, at one point, the two even discussed Islamic extremism.
“I remember he was the first Muslim I met,” the friend said. “I just asked him about groups like that and he said they really didn’t represent the true form of Islam.”
The NBC News report cites ISIS documents indicating Raihan entered Syria in July 2014, accompanied by Zakia Nasrin and Jaffrey Khan, his sister and brother-in-law, respectively.
According to NBC News, Khan’s family and a U.S. Intelligence source confirm Raihan was killed in Syria.
News of his reported death saddens the friend.
“I just want to remember him as Rasel, a really smart, very nice, very helpful kid that I knew,” he said. “I do feel deeply sad that he passed away, but just remember him for who he truly was and not what they ended up making him.”