Jihadi John: Philip Hammond says intelligence agencies are 'getting warm' in hunt for Isis militant

Murderer of David Haines and US journalists has not been publicly identified

Click to follow

Philip Hammond has claimed intelligence agencies are “getting warm” in the investigation to reveal the identity of the Islamic State (Isis) militant known as Jihadi John.

The man, who speaks with a London or south-east accent, is believed to be the masked murderer of David Haines, Steven Sotloff and James Foley seen in the extremist group’s gruesome beheading videos.

Officials have claimed Britain is “close” to identifying the terrorist for a month but no identity has been released.

Speaking to CNN at the United Nations summit in New York, the Foreign Secretary claimed the net was closing in.

“We are getting warm, we are working on all the leads. There's a big investigation and we are getting warm,” he said.

"We are narrowing down the field but I don't want to say any more at this stage.“

Up to 500 British jihadists are believed to be fighting with Isis in Syria and Iraq and the Government has increased counter-extremism measures in an attempt to prevent anyone else travelling to the conflict zones.

One of the men believed to be under investigation is a former rapper who reportedly travelled to the Syria last year from west London to join Isis.

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, known as L Jinny or Lyricist Jinn, came to national attention earlier this year, when he posted a picture of himself holding a severed head on Twitter.

Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary pictured here in a YouTube video showcasing his rapping

His father, Adel Abdul Bary, admitted terror charges including liasing with Osama bin Laden after becoming an al-Qaeda spokesman after the 1998 US embassy bombings at a court in New York on Friday.

Several politicians and officials have suggested Jihadi John's identity would soon be revealed since the first beheading, of Mr Foley, in August.

Just days after the killing, the British Ambassador to the US, Sir Peter Westmacott, said agencies were “not far away” from naming the militant.

He told CNN that voice-recognition and intelligence was being used to track him down.

Numerous reports have followed in several outlets that the identities of Jihadi John and his associates are known to authorities but they cannot act without endangering the lives of Alan Henning and other hostages.

The Foreign Secretary condemned the treatment of the volunteer aid worker, who left his family in Salford to help Syrian refugees.

In a cruel twist, the Isis militants holding Mr Henning sent his wife an audio recording of him pleading for his life.

Mr Hammond said: "What we do know is Alan Henning was out there simply to help. He was a humanitarian worker who went with an aid convoy organised by British Muslim groups to provide support to refugees in Syria.

“He was doing good and I think it speaks volumes about Isis that this is the way they are treating somebody who went out there to help their people and support their communities in their time of need.”

Mr Hammond’s claims come as the United States and Arab allies continue bombing Isis strongholds in Syria, reportedly including the city of Raqqa where it is thought Mr Henning is being held.

Separate footage released this week showed British photojournalist John Cantlie in a propaganda video reading a speech scripted by Isis.

When asked about Britain’s policy of not paying ransoms to terrorists to release hostages, Mr Hammond said it was “absolutely right”.

The Home Office would not comment further on the investigation and it is understood that, for security reasons, Jihadi John’s identity would not be made public if it was known.

Additional reporting by PA