'Jihadi John': Spotlight on control orders as more details emerge of killer’s life

Neighbours said the Isis killer prayed up to five times a day at a mosque close to his home in west London before he enrolled at Westminster University

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A picture of Mohammed Emwazi as a student and devout teenage Muslim was emerging last night as more details came to light of the 26-year-old Londoner unmasked as Jihadi John.

Neighbours said the Isis killer prayed up to five times a day at a mosque close to his home in west London before he enrolled at Westminster University, where he graduated with a 2:2 degree.

Course records, detailed by Sky News (which also published a picture of him as an adult), showed he failed one of his modules and scraped through his other courses with low marks. But with his fluent Arabic and his computer skills, the radicalised Emwazi would have been useful for the Isis propaganda machine. What transformed him from an unremarkable student to a poster boy for Isis brutality remained unclear, though, and neighbours claimed they were mystified to learn what had happened to him.

“We never saw him with any group or doing anything wrong in the area,” said Sharaft Ullah, 42, a cab driver who worships at the Harrow Road Mosque close to the Emwazi family home. “He was a strict Muslim, [praying] four or five times a day [at] the mosque.”

After his degree he went to Tanzania for what he claimed was a holiday; but he was arrested and sent back to Britain, where he was questioned about his political and religious beliefs and whether his true destination was Somalia.

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The 27-year-old is believed to have left Britain in 2012

Emwazi was named in court papers in 2011 as a member of a network of UK and East Africa-based Islamist extremists supplying funds and people for fighting in Somalia.

Members of the group were said to have links with terrorists; others were said to have undergone terrorist training at a terror camp in Cumbria run by Mohammed Hamid – known as “Osama bin London” – who was convicted in 2008. Men later convicted of the failed attacks on London’s transport system in 2005 were also said to have belonged.

The size of the extremist network and the level of scrutiny it received after 2005 suggested Emwazi’s connections would have been noted before he went to Tanzania, indicating why he was stopped when he reached Dar es Salaam.

He later spent months in Kuwait, where he worked before leaving for Syria after he was stopped from returning, according to his account. Claims by the campaigning group Cage that he joined Isis because of MI5 harassment were described as “completely reprehensible” by a Downing Street spokesman yesterday, while Sir John Sawyer, former head of MI6, said: “The idea that somehow being spoken to by a member of MI5 is a radicalising act, I think this is very false and very transparent.”

 

The role of the security forces remained under the spotlight yesterday as the Government’s counter-terrorism laws watchdog, David Anderson QC, said the intelligence agencies may have erred in failing to put Emwazi under house arrest.

“Perhaps they did slip up in this case but one won’t know until there’s been an inquiry or a report of some kind,” he told the BBC. “A lot of people talk a good game when it comes to terrorism; the knack is to try and identify the few who are going to do something about it.”

Court documents suggested that Emwazi’s group included Ibrahim Magag, a Somali-born Briton, who eluded MI5 and police to flee the country on Boxing Day 2012. Under a system of control orders, he was forced to move to the west of England to take him away from the group known as “The London Boys”, a group of fixers for al-Shabab extremists in Somalia.

But he was allowed to return to London under a new monitoring programme introduced by the Government in December 2011, which ended the relocation rule. He fled the country just before Emwazi is thought to have left for Syria in 2013. Magag’s whereabouts are unknown.

Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, said: “We warned the Government from the start not to abolish control orders. We need to know whether Theresa May’s decision to ignore all our warnings and weaken counter-terror powers has made it easier for extremists to organise and recruit for ISIL.”

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said the Government had made a mistake, but told the BBC: “We are now back on the right track. The politicians who made that mistake need to think very carefully about why they did it and I think the benefit of the doubt was, I’m afraid, given too much to those who wish us serious harm.”

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