Mohammed Emwazi: 'Isis play Jihadi John like a piano - he's being used,' says former militant

Defector said Isis created celebrity to attract jihadists from Europe

Lizzie Dearden
Monday 02 March 2015 09:23
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Jihadi John was the name given to an Isis militant with a British accent seen on video beheading journalist James Foley
Jihadi John was the name given to an Isis militant with a British accent seen on video beheading journalist James Foley

A former Isis fighter has described Mohammed Emwazi, the man alleged to be executioner “Jihadi John” as a loner who shunned other jihadists.

Abu Ayman, who has since left the so-called Islamic State, said he met the 26-year-old in Syria two years ago, before he started his killing spree in the group’s gory propaganda videos.

After the beheading of US journalist James Foley, British aid worker David Haines and several other hostages, Jihadi John has come to be seen as a poster boy for the extremist group.

But Ayman said there was “nothing special” about Emwazi and that Isis had engineered his twisted fame.

“Some joined Isis after watching and admiring him - they take him as an example,” he told the BBC.

“Isis play him like a piano. He's a celebrity to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe but some think he is showing off. They think he's being used by Isis."

He claimed to have met Emwazi shortly after his arrival in Syria, when they were both with Islamist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the civil war.

The pair were among a number of British fighters in the town of Atmeh in the north of the country, where they managed to take over homes and bragged about “five star jihad” on Twitter and Instagram.

Ayman said Emwazi always stood apart from the group, adding: "He was cold. He didn't talk much. He wouldn't join us in prayer.

"He'd only pray with his friends ... the other British brothers prayed with us, but he was strange.

Jihadi John is one of numerous British men in Isis, seen here in a recruitment video

"The other British brothers would say 'Hi' when they saw us on the road, but he turned his face away. The British fighters were always hanging out together, but he wouldn't join them."

Ayman said he defected from Isis after superiors ordered him to murder women and children and believes that others will also flee at the first opportunity.

Emwazi has been described by a former teacher as a “lovely, lovely boy” with a “real willingness to try and succeed” at school, although he received anger management therapy.

He went on to graduate from a computer programming degree at the University of Westminster.

He had moved to England at the age of six from Kuwait and first came to the attention of MI5 in 2009, being detained with two others while travelling to Tanzania for a safari holiday in an episode revealed by The Independent.

The University of Westminster, where he studied computer programming

Campaigners from the human rights group Cage claimed Emwazi had become the subject of a campaign of harassment by MI5 to try to persuade him to become an informant before his escape and he wrote in emails that he considered suicide to escape spies.

Emwazi is believed to have fled to Syria in 2012 or 2013 after changing his name and MI5 has come under fire for failing to prevent him from joining Isis.

Additional reporting by PA

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