A British man has been identified as the knife-wielding militant who appears in Islamic State (Isis) videos claiming responsibility for the beheadings of US, British and other hostages.
The Guardian understands that Mohammad Emwazi, a 26-year-old west Londoner and university graduate, is the militant. He had been given the monicker “Jihadi John” by a group of his hostages, who described him as part of an Isis cell they named “the Beatles”.
The name was first published by the Washington Post on Thursday morning. Strenuous efforts appear to have been made to cover his tracks on the internet.
Emwazi guarded western hostages and handled negotiations with their families. By all accounts he is a ruthless killer who has shown little compunction about his gory, on-screen murders.
Emwazi arrived in Britain as a young boy, aged six, after being born in Kuwait. He grew in up west London and was known as a polite, mild-mannered young man.
Those who knew him say he had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes but remained an observant Muslim. The Post describes him as bearded and as careful not to make eye contact with women.
He graduated in 2009 in information technology and is also fluent in Arabic. .However, instead of a computing career, Emwazi ended up on MI5’s radar.
Over the course of a year he claimed to have been harassed and intimidated by the security services. In 2010 he went as far as to file a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his treatment.
The security services declined to confirm or deny that Emwazi was the knife-wielding killer. Downing Street also refused to comment on the reports.
David Cameron’s deputy official spokesman said: “We cannot confirm or deny anything in relation to intelligence. The point the prime minister would make, which we have said since we have seen the awful actions of these Isil [Isis] terrorists, is that we are absolutely determined to bring the perpetrators to justice. The police and security agencies have been working hard to do that.”
Asked whether Emwazi was known to the security services, she said: “I’m not going to get into the details of an ongoing police and security investigation.”
When asked if Downing Street had any concerns about Emwazi being name in the media, she cautioned against the inquiries of the intelligences agencies and safety of UK nationals being put at risk.
“The point I would make is that there is an ongoing investigation. It is absolutely right that we allow the police and security agencies to do all they can to bring those responsible to justice and help keep British people safe.”
According to people who have moved in jihadi circles in west London, Emwazi began to be noticed about five or six years ago. “That’s when he emerged, so to speak,” said one. Among his associates at that time was Bilal el-Berjawi, a Londoner of Lebanese origin who was killed by a drone strike in Somalia three years ago.
In August 2009 Emwazi went on a supposed safari holiday to Tanzania, but on landing in the capital he said he was detained by police and held overnight.
In a series of statements to Cage, which campaigns on behalf of communities affected by the “war on terror”, he alleged he was threatened with beatings by gun-toting members of Tanzania’s security forces.
After being refused entry to Tanzania he was put on a plane to the Netherlands, where he said he was questioned by an MI5 agent named “Nick” who accused him of wanting to fight in Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabaab operates in the southern part of the country.
The Independent in 2010 profiled a number of similar incidents and also identified Emwazi as Muhammad ibn Muazzam.
In emails seen by the Guardian, Emwazi said the British agent knew “everything about me; where I lived, what I did, and the people I hanged around with”. He then it is claimed attempted to “turn” Emwazi, asking: “Why don’t you work for us?”. When he refused MI5 said “life would be harder for you”.
Emwazi remained entangled with MI5. Over the next few months, he was again detained and interrogated.
Emwazi decided to move to Kuwait, where he landed a job working for a computer company, according to the emails he wrote to Cage. He came back to London twice, the second time to finalize his wedding plans to a woman in Kuwait.
In June 2010, however, counterterrorism officials in Britain detained him again – this time fingerprinting him and searching his belongings. When he tried to fly back to Kuwait the next day, he was prevented from doing so. In his final interrogation he claimed to have been strangled by a police officer.
Emwazi is thought to have been incensed by the decision to bar him from Kuwait, the land of his birth, and where he had worked and planned to marry.
“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” he wrote in a June 2010 email to Cage. But now “I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London. A person imprisoned & controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace & country, Kuwait.”
Close friends of Emwazi’s told the Post that his situation in London had made him desperate to leave the country. It’s unclear exactly when he reached Syria or how.
One friend said he believed Emwazi wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to teach English in 2012 but was unsuccessful. Soon afterwards, the friend said, he was gone.
“He was upset and wanted to start a life elsewhere,” one of the friends said. “He at some stage reached the point where he was really just trying to find another way to get out.”
By 2010 he told friends he wanted to go to Syria. Almost all advised him against it.
Before he was named publicly on Thursday web searches for his name brought up only results from the electoral roll, listing various west London addresses where he lived with his family.
Similarly, his brother’s Facebook account has been deleted, as have various social media, and UK LinkedIn profiles connected to his sister, though she now appears to have a new, Kuwait-based LinkedIn page. http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...zi-jihadi-john http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/...6ee_story.html http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31637090