Mohammed Emwazi: Isis fighter known as 'Jihadi John' named as man from west London

British man suspected of appearing in videos of hostages being beheaded

Heather Saul
Thursday 26 February 2015 11:57 GMT
The voice of Jihadi John

The British Isis militant suspected of appearing in videos showing the beheading of Western hostages has been named in reports as Mohammed Emwazi from London.

Emwazi, or 'Jihadi John' as he became known, is thought to have appeared wearing black robes and a balaclava in a series of disturbing videos depicting the killing of journalists and aid workers.

The families of Emwazi's alleged victims have called for him to be brought to justice, with the daughter of a murdered aid worker saying her family will not rest until there is a bullet between the killer's eyes.

The name 'Jihadi John' came after it was reported that hostages referred to the militant as 'John' during their time captive.

On Thursday, The Washington Post published a lengthy article naming him, quoting a friend who said: “I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John."

An international manhunt led by the FBI was launched in August 2014 when he was thought to have appeared in video footage showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley.

Foley's death was followed by the brutal killing of four more UK and US aid workers and journalists, all of whom were shown in footage next to a balaclava clad militant dressed in black, believed to be Jihadi John.

Following the disclosure of Emwazi's identity, the daughter of one his alleged victims, British aid worker David Haines, has said her family will not rest until there is a bullet between the killer's eyes.

Bethany Haines said that identifying the masked man was "a good step" towards finding justice for her father and Emwazi's other alleged victims.

"But I think all the families will feel closure and relief once there's a bullet between his eyes," Bethany Haines said.

The family of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist, said they hope his killer will be caught and sent to prison, and said they felt "relieved" after Emwazi's identity was revealed, according to the BBC.

"We want to sit in a courtroom, watch him sentenced and see him sent to a super-max prison where he will spend the rest of his life in isolation," the family added.

He is thought to have been featured in videos threatening the lives of Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, who were later killed by the extremist group.

Reports say Emwazi rose rapidly through Isis ranks and became one of a trio of British men who held European and American nationals hostage.

He was also allegedly a prominent member of training camps for new recruits in Raqqa and was widely believed to have played a major role in the jihadis’ IT security, according to The Guardian.

Kenji Goto, left, and Haruna Yukawa
Kenji Goto, left, and Haruna Yukawa

Emwazi is reported to have started to become radicalised following a trip to Tanzania, where he and two friends were detained by police overnight after landing in Dar es Salaam and eventually deported.

It is claimed that Emwazi told friends he was then flown to Amsterdam where an officer from MI5 accused him of trying to reach Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabaab operates.

CAGE research director, Asim Qureshi
CAGE research director, Asim Qureshi (AP)

Asim Qureshi, research director at the rights group, CAGE, says he met with Emwazi in the autumn after he returned from this trip to discuss what had taken place. “Mohammed was quite incensed by his treatment, that he had been very unfairly treated,” Mr Qureshi told The Post.

The Post reports that Emwazi then moved to Kuwait, his birthplace, for eight months. He returned to London twice during this period before being detained by counterterrorism officials in Britain, who took his fingerprints and searched his belongings.

He was allegedly prevented from returning to Kuwait, telling Mr Qureshi in an email: “I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started, but now I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.

Jihadi John in an Isis beheading video
Jihadi John in an Isis beheading video

Mr Qureshi was quoted as saying there was an "extremely strong resemblance", between the militant in the videos and Emwazi. He later claimed that he had told The Post: "While there were some striking similarities, that due to the hood, there was no way he could be 100 per cent certain."

Mr Qureshi last spoke to Emwazi in 2012 when he contacted him for advice. He felt “actions were taken to criminalize him and he had no way to do something against these actions", according to Mr Qureshi.

In a statement after the news broke, Mr Qureshi attacked British security services for "suffocating domestic policies" and for "systematically" harassing young Muslims.

"This case should trigger thinking about British domestic and foreign policy," he said. "What risk assessments, if any, have been made about British counter-terrorism policy and the key part it plays in radicalising individuals?"

One friend said he believed Emwazi spoke of wanting to teach English in Saudi Arabia shortly before he disappeared, but had been unsuccessful.

“He at some stage reached the point where he was really just trying to find another way to get out," the friend was quoted as saying.

Emwazi studied computer programming at the University of Westminster in London
Emwazi studied computer programming at the University of Westminster in London (Creative Commons)

A spokesperson for the University of Westminster confirmed Emwazi left the University six years ago. The spokesperson said that if the allegations are true, the university is "shocked and sickened by the news".

"Our thoughts are with the victims and their families," the spokesperson said. "We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern."

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: "We are not going to confirm the identity of anyone at this stage or give an update on the progress of this live counter-terrorism investigation."

The Home Office said it would neither confirm nor deny reports at this stage.

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