The British Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John” believed to be responsible for multiple executions of Western hostages has been identified as 26-year-old Mohammed Emwazi by a report in The Washington Post.
Born in Kuwait, Emwazi comes from a “well-to-do family” in West London and studied computer science at the University of Westminster.
The Post talked to multiple friends of Emwazi’s who identified him as the jihadist militant responsible for the graphic beheadings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and others. Wearing a mask to obscure his identity, the executioner became known by his distinctive British accent, and he was dubbed “Jihadi John” by the media.
Emwazi became radicalised after graduating from University, and he was known to authorities. He had been stopped and quizzed twice by security services, once in Tanzania and again in Britain. This first detention frustrated Emwazi, according to one friend, who said, “Mohammed was quite incensed by his treatment, that he had been very unfairly treated.” An MI5 agent reportedly subsequently tried to “recruit” Emwazi.
He then moved to Kuwait, and was detained again when returning to Britain to finalise a marriage, and could not subsequently leave. Emwazi wrote to the friend saying that he felt “like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.” In 2010, he filed a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, according to the Guardian.
Emwazi is believed to have travelled to Syria in 2012, where he became responsible for guarding prisoners for Islamic State, the militant Jihadist group also known as ISIS or ISIL that now controls large swathes of the country and Iraq. The BBC reports that British security services have previously chosen not to disclose Emwazi’s name for “operational reasons.”
The Guardian reports that Emwazi “had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes but remained an observant Muslim.”
Asim Querishi, a spokesperson for advocacy group CAGE, held a press conference about Emwazi. He says that he knew him since 2009, and he is a “beautiful young man,” and that while Emwazi’s family were aware that he travelled to Syria, they do not believe he is “Jihadi John.”
The US government are refusing to publicly confirm or deny the Washington Post’s claim, the Telegraph reports, but a “former senior intelligence official” has since “confirmed” to ABC News that Emwazi is indeed “Jihadi John.”
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London has released a statement in which it says it believes the report is “accurate and correct.”
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