Moner Abu-Salha: Before Becoming a Jihadi Suicide Bomber, He Was a South Florida Bro
His childhood was painfully normal.
via Casey Hamilton Abu-Salha in middle school.
By all accounts, Abu-Salha's childhood was about as normal and suburban as it gets. His father, Mohammad Abu-Salah, owns a grocery store in Melbourne. (It's not clear where he's from originally; the Times reports that he's Palestinian, but the Daily Mail says he came from Jordan.) His mother, Michelle, is an American who converted to Islam, the Mail reports. And the family spent Moner's childhood in a quiet gated community called the Lakes at Sandridge just north of Vero Beach.
Moner was by all accounts a typical neighborhood kid, shooting hoops and causing minor trouble. "They were doing the same things my kids do,'' neighbor Rob Hill tells the Miami Herald of Moner and his friends. "Throwing rocks."
If he was particularly into politics or religion, it didn't show to his classmates. "Mo was all about going to Dunkin' Donuts," a friend from high school tells the Daily Mail.
He might have been radicalized on a trip to Jordan in 2012.
A photo tweeted by an Islamic group in Syria allegedly shows Abu-Salha before detonating a truck bomb.
Moner dropped out of Sebastian River High School in 2010 before graduating, the Daily Mail reports, but later received a degree in Fort Pierce, where he lived with an older brother. He attended Seminole State College for a time, but again quit studying and, in 2012, moved in with relatives in Jordan, according to the Mail.
When he returned, a friend tells the British paper, he was significantly more religiously observant, wearing long robes and regularly reading the Koran and singing prayers. At some point in 2013, he again traveled to the Middle East and his family lost contact with him until they learned about his death in a suicide bombing last week in Syria.
One unnamed relative tells the Arab Daily News that they believe Moner was "brainwashed" and might have spent time at a camp in Texas before traveling to the war-torn nation. His parents, who so far have declined to give interviews, have cooperated with federal officials and are distraught and baffled, neighbors say, over their son's fate.