A Kiwi lad's death by drone
TONY WALL, BLAIR ENSOR AND ANDREA VANCE
When the Jones boys converted to Islam, it caused quite a stir in Christchurch.
Suddenly Daryl and his younger brother Nathan, who grew up in a
strong Christian house, were sporting beards, learning Arabic and
wearing flowing robes. Carloads of Muslims, including immigrant women in
veils, would turn up at the family's home in a smart east Christchurch
suburb, neighbours tut-tutting and muttering about terrorists.
Some who knew the family accepted the conversion, others struggled.
When Daryl was in his early 20s and still flirting with Islam, he
surprised the family of a Christian friend he was visiting when he
suddenly declared he had to go to the far end of the house to pray
towards Mecca. "We thought it was weird," said the friend's mother.
All of this upset the boys' parents - the father a former Australian
police officer doing security for a government organisation, the mother
employed by a Christchurch tertiary institution. The Sunday Star-Times
has decided not to name the parents to protect their privacy. They
declined interviews and have told friends not to speak to the media.
Daryl, 30 when he died, moved to Sydney around 2008 and converted to
Islam soon after arriving. Nathan, still in Christchurch, converted
soon after with the help of Saudi Arabian students he was friendly with.
"The parents desperately wanted both the boys to leave Islam. They
had seen their sons change dramatically in appearance - it's scary for
parents when that happens," a source said.
Mr and Mrs Jones turned to their New Life Church for help, and were
put in touch with some people with knowledge of Islam to teach them more
about it and hopefully convince Nathan to re-think his decision. He
listened politely to the delegation, but rejected the advice.
In Sydney, Daryl began attending the Lakemba Mosque, known as a
hotbed of radicalism, and drew the attention of counter-terrorism
authorities because of the company he kept.
He changed his name to Muslim bin John, married a Somali woman and
around 2009 headed to Saudi Arabia and then Yemen, ancestral home of
Osama bin Laden and home base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
(AQAP). He told his family he wanted to teach English and help people.
But a source said Jones was thrown in prison in Yemen because he was not
a registered teacher, leaving his wife and four children stranded. His
parents arranged for the family to come to Christchurch, where they
The family last heard from Daryl around May 2012, then lost all
contact. The strain on his parents' marriage was immense, and they
After the 2011 earthquakes Mrs Jones spent time in a motor home,
staying at a caravan park near Christchurch. She gave the impression of a
lost soul, said those who knew her. Residents of the park remember her
saying her son was "missing" in the Middle East and she had asked church
groups to help find him. She seemed very depressed and had had some
sort of falling out with her daughter-in-law.
When news of Daryl's death finally filtered through after DNA was used to identify the remains, Mrs Jones fell apart.
"No-one really has any answers, it makes the grieving process very
difficult," said a friend. "As a parent, who wouldn't be devastated that
someone can flick a switch and your child is gone? It's absolutely
devastating. This is a completely broken woman. To lose a child this
way. Who makes these decisions to murder your child, and doesn't even
let you know what happened?"
Born in Australia on September 14, 1983, Daryl Anthony Jones and his
family moved to New Zealand, his mother's home country, when he was
about six or seven. Those who knew Jones used the same words to describe
him: quiet, shy, soft-spoken, gentle, polite.
"Nathan seemed a good kid too," said a source. "I think the two boys
would have been fairly easily led. I think they were just influenced by
the wrong people."
Daryl and Nathan attended Aranui High School and were involved in
Christian youth groups, but became disillusioned and didn't fit in.
Sensitive and deep thinkers, they believed there was hypocrisy in the
"They felt that what was being taught about love and acceptance was
not being practised," a source said. "Daryl was looking for a belief
system that worked for him. Muslim friends offered brotherhood if he
converted to Islam." One issue for Daryl was the Christian doctrine of
the Holy Trinity. "Daryl accepted the [Islamic] view of one absolute
God," the source said.
Experts familiar with Islamic converts said there was usually some
problem or crisis in their background. Although Daryl was from a good
family, sources said the father was angry and controlling. "Daryl was a
very quiet man, very serious. I would say he had an anger issue deep
down," said a person who knew the family.
"It was not a settled family, there was a lot of anger there, I
think there were underlying insecurity issues for both boys from when
they were little."
Papanui man Kevin Fish met Daryl 10 years ago and they would hang
out at weekends, playing video games, before Jones moved to Australia.
"He was into tinkering with gadgets and stuff. He was a genuinely good
Jones would come back from Australia on holiday. "He'd converted to
Islam," Fish said. "We didn't see much of him after that, he just
disconnected from the rest of us."
They argued on occasion about religion, but Fish never sensed that
his friend would join a terrorist group. "He didn't seem like the kind
of guy that would lay a finger on anyone."
Fish said he heard Jones had moved to an Arab country where he was studying the Koran "or something like that.
"I heard through an old friend that he'd been missing for a while
and then we saw the thing about a New Zealander being killed in a drone
strike. "It just clicked - ‘oh, it was him'."
Jones was killed alongside Australian Christopher Havard, whose
parents said he was introduced to radical Islam at the Al-Noor mosque in
Mosque leaders confirmed Havard stayed there and studied in 2011,
but denied radical teaching took place. But a man who attended a
converts' weekend at the mosque 10 years ago said a visiting speaker
from Indonesia talked about violent jihad and plenty shared his views.
"Most of the men were angry with the moral weakness of New Zealand. I
would say they were radical."
Jones' radicalisation was a gradual process. It appears he listened
to controversial speakers on the internet, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, a US
citizen taken out by a drone in Yemen in 2011, and mixed with radicals
An Egyptian immigrant who has seen first-hand how Muslims are
recruited for jihad said Western converts were vulnerable because,
besides feeling marginalised from Western society, they were curious
about their new religion and wanted to dig deeper. "The [recruiters]
have a brainwashing process known as CRA - conversion, radicalisation
and activation," said the source. "Once the person is radicalised, they
tell them, ‘here is your role, your responsibility'. Now the person
feels they have something to do, to be important, to be someone."
Australian media reported Jones was known to Australian Federal
Police (AFP) as an "Islamic radical" and the subject of numerous border
protection reports. He and Havard had their Australian passports
cancelled in 2012 because it was feared they posed a threat to national
Havard was the subject of an AFP arrest warrant over the kidnapping
of Westerners in Yemen in December, 2012. It is not known if Jones, who
reportedly fought under the name Abu Suhaib al-Australi, was involved.
Last week New Zealand Islamic convert Mark Taylor, now apparently
fighting in Syria, told The Australian Jones tried to recruit him to
al-Qaeda in Yemen in 2009. Taylor, also known as Muhammad Daniel,
claimed that at one point Jones had flown back to Australia to get a
Saudi Arabia visa to work as a teacher, and was met by British
intelligence agents hoping he would work with them.
Jones and Havard were with five others in the convoy hit by a
missile fired from a US drone in Yemen's Hadramout province on November
19. While authorities believe they were "foot soldiers" of AQAP, they
were not the main target of the attack.
Jones' presence in the convoy remains a mystery to his heartbroken
family, who have to face the fact their boy is buried in the sands of
"It's scary for them. They are normal Kiwis and the SIS [Security
Intelligence Service] may have been watching them," a friend said. "We
don't know why Daryl was in that car. Was he really with al-Qaeda? Or
was he deceived into thinking he was helping victims of US attacks? But
what on earth was he doing in that convoy? You don't just sit in a
convoy of al-Qaeda militants. Maybe he met them when he was in jail."
Mrs Jones remains unhappy with the lack of information from the
government, while Mr Jones is angry he wasn't able to persuade his boy
not to go to the Middle East, a source says. "It's devastating for the
parents. They are not anti-American but it raises big issues about why
they are dropping bombs. Daryl's mother wants to know what proof our
Government had that her son was a terrorist. She says people don't know
the real Daryl and are only speculating he was with a terrorist
Prime Minister John Key, minister in charge of the SIS, has remained
tight-lipped about the case, initially refusing to release his real
name until it was reported in Australian media. He said the Government
Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) didn't supply information that led
directly to Jones' death, but had a warrant to monitor him and passed
information to Five Eyes security agency partners. Key said drone
strikes were justified, even when innocent civilians were mistakenly
The Star-Times sought information on Jones from the Department of
Internal Affairs (DIA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
DIA confirmed it held passport information on him but refused to release
details on privacy and national security grounds. MFAT said: "The
family has requested privacy and we won't be commenting." A senior DIA
source said pressure was exerted from the Prime Minister's office not to
release information. Friends of the family say they suddenly went quiet
a couple of months ago, and speculated the Government had advised them
not to speak.
In Christchurch, the ex-judicial death of Jones elicits little
sympathy from some. "If he was stupid enough to go [to Yemen]," one
former neighbour spat, "then he deserves it."
NZ ISLAMISTS PROMOTE PEACE
On Friday afternoons, Muslim converts gather at a drop-in centre in
suburban Christchurch to chat and teach anyone who's interested about
They have taken names like Abu Hamzah and Abdul Hakeem. One has kept
his old name - Nathan Jones. He is the younger brother of Daryl Jones,
also known as Muslim bin John, killed by an American drone last year.
Nathan Jones and his friends set up the centre to promote Salafism, a
sect which follows strict Islam as practised in Mohammed's time. Some
Salafi followers in Western countries espouse jihad but Jones and his
friends denounce violence. Flyers in the window proclaim that
"terrorists kill Muslims and non-Muslims indiscriminately".
Jones, married to an Iraqi woman, declined to comment about his
brother or his religious beliefs but his friends said Daryl had followed
a "deviant" ideaology. "Orthodox Islam does not teach us to kill
innocent people and to blow up trains and strap bombs to ourselves,"
said Abu Hamzah. "[Daryl] was following . . . an extremist ideology in
the ways of [Osama] bin Laden and we never agreed with that ideology. We
speak against it."
Hamzah said Muslims in New Zealand were peaceful. "I've been up and
down this country and to every single masjid [mosque] there is, almost,
and I have met how many people with this radical idea? Two [Jones and
Christopher Havard]. And where are they now? Apparently dead. Nathan's
brother . . . went to Yemen, he was on some deviant ideology, he thought
he'd go join a group and got killed by a drone."
Another convert, Abdul Hakeem Laughton, said "we were advising
Saleem [Havard] a long time ago that his ideology was wrong, he didn't
take the advice on board."
Hamzah said Havard and Jones listened to radical preachers like
Anwar al-Awlaki and were "overcome by emotions" over the killing of
Muslims. "We feel pain for our Muslim brothers and we ask almighty Lord
to change the situation but we do it based on morals and knowledge. If
we did it based on emotions we'd probably be there [Yemen] too.
- Sunday Star Times