TIME isis

Everything We Know About ‘Jihadi John’

The ISIS militant, who has been identified as a Briton named Mohammed Emwazi, seen in a propaganda video.
Reuters The ISIS militant, who has been identified as a Briton named Mohammed Emwazi, seen in a propaganda video.

From S Club 7 and Manchester United to Islamic fundamentalism and possibly murder

The identity of the masked fighter from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria “Jihadi John” has been revealed as Mohammed Emwazi. He first appeared in a video last August showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley and the world has been wondering about his identity and what led him to such brutality ever since.

Security services were quick to identify him but his name was not publicized until Thursday. All we knew was that ‘Jihadi John’ murdered or appeared to murder Foley, two other Americans, Steven Sotloff, and Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig, Britons David Haines and Alan Henning, and Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto Jogo from Japan.

Now we know a lot more about the man behind the mask:

– Born in Kuwait in 1988, Emwazi moved to the U.K. at the age of six and grew up in northwest London, first in a rented flat in Maida Vale and then in a two-storey terraced house in the middle-class area of Queen’s Park.

– Emwazi was educated at St Mary Magdalene Church of England elementary school. According to The Times, he “was a fan of the pop group S Club 7, Manchester United, the computer game Duke Nukem: Time to Kill and the book How to Kill a Monster.”

– One neighbor told The Times that he used to hear loud arguments from their home. Friends and neighbors have said the Emwazi family was not radical, and said that the son was always religious, but not extreme. He has been described as a polite, quiet young man, a hard-working student and fond of stylish clothes.

– Emwazi attended Quintin Kynaston Community Academy in North London, completing his high-school studies in 2006. It’s not yet clear where he was first radicalized, but The Times suggests he was drawn into a group of extremists supporting the Somalia-based group Al-Shabaab. British intelligence agency MI5 believed that the men conducted covert meetings around football matches.

– He graduated in 2009 from the University of Westminster in London with a computer science degree. Fluent in both Arabic and English, he apparently hoped to build a successful career in Arab countries.

– That summer, he travelled to Tanzania with two friends, allegedly for a safari holiday. Emwazi and his friends were detained in the capital Dar es Salaam. He denied attempting to reach Somalia (although a former ISIS hostage told the Post that Jihadi John “was obsessed with Somalia” and forced his prisoners to watch videos about Al-Shabaab). Rights advocacy group CAGE say Emwazi was denied an official reason for his detention and was repeatedly threatened by officers armed with guns and sticks.

MORE Inside ISIS, a TIME Special Report

The trio were deported to Amsterdam, and then back to Britain, and were questioned by counter-terrorism officials in both places. Emwazi claimed an MI5 agent tried to recruit him at this point, and when he refused, threatened: “You’re going to have a lot of trouble…You’re going to be known…you’re going to be followed…life will be harder for you.”

– The following month, Sept. 2009, Emwazi returned to Kuwait, apparently to avoid being further harassed in the U.K. According to emails he sent Asim Qureshi, research director of CAGE, he had a contract with a computer company in Kuwait. He stayed there for eight months.

– In May 2010, he was stopped at London’s Heathrow airport but was allowed to re-enter the U.K. for an eight-day visit, before returning to Kuwait in June.

– In late July 2010, Emwazi returned to Britain with plans to wed a woman in Kuwait. He was questioned at Heathrow for six hours and his visa to return to Kuwait was refused. Emwazi told CAGE he was violently assaulted by a police officer during this interrogation. That year he also filed a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, claiming he had been harassed and intimidated by the security services for a year. Emwazi also told CAGE that MI5 had approached his fiancée in Kuwait, apparently scaring off her and her family. The marriage was cancelled.

– Emwazi soon learnt that British intelligence had asked the Kuwaiti government to reject his visa application. Stuck in the U.K., Emwazi sought the help of both lawyers and human rights groups to reverse his situation. He was unsuccessful.

– His friends, speaking to the Post, said Emwazi was “desperate to leave the country”. In 2012, he passed an English language teaching course and applied to several language schools in Saudi Arabia to teach the language there. His applications were rejected.

– In early 2013, Emwazi changed his name by deed poll to Mohammed al-Ayan, apparently on the recommendation of his father, who suggested it might allow him to travel without the same problems as before. He attempted to travel to Kuwait once more but was barred and questioned again by intelligence officials.

– One week later, Emwazi left his parents’ London home. Three days after his disappearance, his parents reported him as a missing person. According to CAGE, it was not until four months later that the police visited his family home. His father said they had managed some limited contact with him and believed he was in Turkey helping refugees. The police told Emwazi’s parents they had information Emwazi had entered Syria.

– A former hostage said Jihadi John was part of a team guarding Western hostages at ‘the box’, a nickname given to a prison in Idlib, Syria. According to the Post hostages described him as quiet, intelligent, and “the most deliberate” of the guards. Freed captives said Emwazi and his team have taken on increasingly powerful roles within ISIS.

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TIME Italy

300 Migrants Feared Dead After Ship Sinks In Mediterranean

Migrants who survived a shipwreck arrive at the Lampedusa harbour
Antonio Parrinello—Reuters Migrants who survived a shipwreck arrive at the Lampedusa harbour in Italy on Feb. 11, 2015.

The sinking took place off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa

At least 300 may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after a boat carrying them from North Africa sank earlier this week, according to the United Nations. The boat is believed to have left from Libya.

The Mediterranean Sea crossing is the world’s most deadly, responsible for 3,500 deaths in 2014, around three-quarters of the total worldwide.

It was described as a “tragedy on an enormous scale” by United Nations High Commission for Refugee regional director Vincent Cochetel, who was quoted by the BBC saying that “Europe cannot afford to do too little too late.” Wednesday’s report came just two days after 29 people died of hypothermia after being rescued by the Italian coastguard from a boat drifting in the Mediterranean.

Italy wound down its ‘Mare Nostrum’ search-and-rescue operation in November, after rescuing around 400 migrants every day for a year. The program was launched after a boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa in Oct.2014 killing more than 360 migrants,

The E.U. now runs “Operation Triton”, a much smaller border control mission with fewer ships and less than a third of Mare Nostrum’s budget.

Italy has pushed for the E.U. to do more to support their rescue efforts. Cochtel said the latest boat disaster is “a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea.”



U.S. and U.K’s Sharing of Mass Surveillance Intel Ruled ‘Unlawful’

The Investigative Powers Tribunal has never before ruled against the intelligence agencies

A British court has ruled that some aspects of the sharing of mass surveillance intelligence by the U.K and the U.S, was unlawful.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) said that the U.K.’s General Communication HQ’s access to intercepted information obtained by the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA) failed to comply with human rights laws, the Guardian reports.

Civil liberties groups including Liberty and Privacy International had brought the complaint to the IPT last year. This was the first legal challenge to be examined in the U.K. over GCHQ’s participation in the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, Prism and Upstream, whose existence was first revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013.

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TIME birds

An Angry Owl Is Attacking Joggers and Stealing Their Hats in Oregon

Some believe the owl is collecting the hats to make a nest

At least four people have been attacked by an owl over the past month in Salem, Oregon, prompting officials to issue warnings to early morning joggers and park visitors.

One jogger said the owl whacked him so hard he thought he was having a stroke. According to Reuters, signs near Bush’s Pasture Park now warn people to avoid jogging before dawn or to consider putting on a hard hat.

Members of a bird conservancy group believe a barred owl is responsible, a species notorious for crowding out the smaller, endangered spotted owl. The owl could be more aggressive because of nesting season – it is believed to be collecting hats for its nest.

No one has been seriously hurt in any of the incidents, but the city’s parks superintendent said officials have never heard of a case like it before.

36-year-old Brad Hilliard was jogging when the bird “swooped down” and pulled the hat off his head “like it was nothing!” He has since returned a couple of times to look for his hat, but says it hasn’t turned up yet. “I just assume it’s being used in a nest!”


TIME Religion

Pope Francis Says Smacking Kids Is Ok As Long As Their ‘Dignity Is Maintained’

The Pope even acted out the movement of smacking a child on the bottom

Pope Francis faced criticism from child protection groups this week when he told parents that it is fine to spank their children as punishment for bad behavior.

Speaking in front of thousands of people on Wednesday at his weekly general audience, Francis described the responsibilities of fatherhood and the qualities of a good father. According to The Associated Press, he recalled a conversation he had with a father who had told him: “At times I have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.”

“How beautiful,” said Francis. “He had a sense of dignity. He has to punish them but does it justly and then moves on.”

Many have condemned this apparent endorsement of corporal punishment. “It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” Peter Newell from the Global Alliance to end Corporal Punishment of Children told The Telegraph.

But the Rev Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, told AP that the Pope was not speaking about committing violence against a child but rather “helping someone to grow and mature.”

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TIME France

Paris Bans Filming of Action Movies Following January Terrorist Attacks

Authorities are worried actors in military uniform could be targeted by terrorists

In the aftermath of January’s terrorist attacks which left 17 dead and the French capital on high alert, Paris authorities have decided to restrict the filming of action movies or police chases in public places.

“There’s a problem with these action-type scenes, as the actors in uniform could be targets for terrorists,” Sylvie Barnaud, the police official who grants external filming permits in Paris, told The Associated Press. “Also the actors could pose confusion for the general public during this highly sensitive period.”

Barnaud has not specified how long the ban might last. Armed police and soldiers continue to be posted outside sensitive sites in Paris, including schools, synagogues and shopping areas.

Paris has long been a favored location for blockbusters like 2014’s Lucy, which featured a police chase outside the Louvre Museum, the thriller Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity.

TIME Ukraine

Western Peace Initiatives on Ukraine Unlikely to Work, Experts Say

US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Kiev amid fears of escalation
Roman Pilipey—EPA U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Feb. 5, 2015.

Russia is more likely to pursue a policy of "frozen war" than agree with Kiev, the U.S. and Europe

The Ukraine crisis may represent the greatest threat to European security since the Cold War, but diplomatic efforts to resolve it have been sporadic and unsuccessful. But on Thursday, Western leaders launched a new effort to bring an end to the conflict, with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveling to Kiev to join U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for talks.

Hollande promised he and Merkel would present a new peace initiative which could guarantee the “full territorial integrity” of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Kerry made it clear that while the U.S. sought a diplomatic solution to the conflict, which has killed over 5,000 people since April, it could not close its eyes to Russian tanks crossing the Ukrainian border. But with pressure mounting on Western leaders to bring an end to the bloodshed, analysts say negotiations are unlikely to achieve anything as long as both sides remain committed to different visions of what ‘resolution’ would look like.

“The Russians have made it quite clear and been quite explicit about what they want. That doesn’t make it right that we should give it to them, but there should be no misunderstanding that Russia’s ambitions are in direct contradiction to Kiev’s desires and Western policy,” says James Nixey, head of the Russia & Eurasia Program at London think-tank Chatham House.

As Nixey sees it, Hollande’s promise to guarantee “the full territorial integrity of Ukraine” is fundamentally impossible because the term means something quite different to the two sides of the conflict. “It’s fantasy land to think these two things could add up,” says Nixey.

In his speech Thursday Kerry called for “an immediate commitment now to a real cease-fire, which is not just a piece of paper,” hinting at the failed diplomatic efforts of the peace agreement signed in Minsk in September. Though it briefly reduced the conflict, it has been violated at an increasing frequency, with separatists taking control of 200 square miles of the country, including the Donetsk airport.

It is with this recent surge in violence in mind that the Obama administration has been deliberating over whether to send “defensive weapons” to Ukraine. (At the moment, the U.S. only provides non-lethal assistance to Kiev troops). Kimberly Marten, professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University, says “it’s possible that the threat of sending U.S. weapons to Ukraine is a tactic to get Putin to take negotiations more seriously.”

Whether it’s an effective tactic or not remains another matter altogether. “Russia never gives in to demands. It’s just not Russia’s style, and it’s certainly not Vladimir Putin’s style,” says Nixey. “Even if it’s the economically rational thing to do, that is trumped in favor of the Russian nationalist argument, which it sees as defending its interests at all cost. Russia may be weaker now but it is more determined.” Indeed, Putin’s approval ratings have been above 80% ever since the annexation of Crimea, despite Russia’s economic slowdown.

MORE Europe appeals to Putin’s ego as it seeks peace in Ukraine

But not everyone agrees that the time for diplomacy has gone. Sam Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, believes there is now a desire in both Europe and in Moscow to see a resolution to this conflict, sooner rather than later. “The cost of running this war is mounting, politically and economically. The greatest damage to the Russian economy is caused by falling oil prices, but the sanctions are also making it more difficult,” he says. “And it’s difficult to hide the number of Russian men going to fight and not coming home.”

Some analysts argue that any sort of agreement would not be in Putin’s interests because losing the conflict would be an enormous political blow for the president, one he may not be able to withstand. But there is an alternative. Greene points out that the Kremlin may struggle to sustain the territory currently under separatist control, and is probably hoping for a frozen conflict — in which it neither wins nor loses.

It’s difficult to say whether a military solution — in the form of sending American weapons — will achieve anything that diplomatic negotiations cannot. Many NATO countries are concerned that it may give Putin the excuse he needs to openly send Russian troops into Ukraine and worsen the crisis altogether. “Sending U.S. weapons to Ukraine would bolster Putin’s claims of a threat to Russia, and could rally the Russian population around the idea that sending Russian troops to Ukraine is necessary to protect Russian sovereignty and security,” says Marten.

Analysts cannot predict the future but Russia seems less likely to compromise than the West. “The United States does not seem to have a plan for what happens next, if Putin escalates rather than backs down,” says Marten. “Are we prepared for a direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia, in Russia’s backyard?”

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TIME Books

Release of Next ‘Game of Thrones’ Novel Will Not Happen in 2015

This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones."
Helen Sloan—AP This image released by HBO shows Kit Harington in a scene from "Game of Thrones."

Fans will have to make do with a compilation of prequels rather than the next instalment in the saga

George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth novel in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire‘ saga that inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones, will not be published in 2015, his publisher told The Guardian on Friday.

Jane Johnson said HarperCollins would instead be publishing a new illustrated compilation of three official prequel novellas to the series, The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight.

“The short novels have been previously published in separate anthologies but never put together before, and this will be a particularly beautiful edition,” Johnson told The Guardian. But she added that she had no information on a possible publication date for The Winds of Winter, which fans have been eagerly awaiting since Martin published the bestselling A Dance with Dragons in 2011.

In December Martin posted on his website to suppress speculation over the book’s release. He wrote: “I’ve said before, and I will say again, I don’t play games with news about the books. I know how many people are waiting, how long they have been waiting, how anxious they are. I am still working on Winds. When it’s done, I will announce it here…I don’t know how I can make it any clearer.”


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TIME celebrities

Benedict Cumberbatch Apologizes After Race Controversy

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
George Pimentel—WireImage/Getty Images Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The Oscar nominee says he was a 'fool' to use the phrase

Benedict Cumberbatch apologized Monday after talking about ‘colored actors’ on a U.S. talk show, saying he’s “devastated to have caused offense.”

The Sherlock star came under fire for using the term, ironically during a discussion on the lack of diversity in British acting. He said he had witnessed British actors finding more opportunities in the U.S. than they do in the U.K..

“I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really different in the U.K., and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the U.K., and that’s something that needs to change,” he said last week on PBS talk show Tavis Smiley.

An anti-racism charity, Show Racism The Red Card, told The Independent that while they applauded Cumberbatch for shining a spotlight on a a very important issue, he “also inadvertently highlighted the issue of appropriate terminology and the evolution of language.” The charity said the term ‘colored’ is now “outdated and has the potential to cause offense.”

The writer Bonnie Greer said: “If he was 80, no one would have noticed. Under 60 — who says “coloured” anymore? It indicates a mindset; a certain circle.”

In a statement to People, Cumberbatch said: “I feel the complete fool I am and while I am sorry to have offended people and to learn from my mistakes in such a public manner, please be assured I have. I apologize again to anyone I offended for this thoughtless use of inappropriate language about an issue which affects friends of mine and which I care about deeply.”

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TIME Greece

Meet the New Prime Minister of Greece Who Has Shaken Brussels and Berlin

Leader of Syriza party Alexis Tsipras, during his victory speech in Athens, Jan. 25, 2015.
Nikos Pilos—laif/Redux Leader of Syriza party Alexis Tsipras, during his victory speech in Athens, Jan. 25, 2015.

Alexis Tsipras told voters he will re-negotiate Greece's crippling debt repayments

Following the victory of the radical left-wing Syriza party in Greece’s general election, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras was sworn in Monday as Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years. Having rejected E.U. austerity policies and bailouts as “null and void”, European leaders are watching to see if Tsipras’ diplomacy is as fiery as his pre-election oratory.

Tsipras was born in Athens to a middle-class family in 1974, four days after the fall of the Greek military dictatorship which had ruled the country for seven years. His father ran a small construction company and voted for the social democratic Pasok party, which his son has just kicked out of office. Though he grew up in a highly politicized period, Tsipras was more interested in sport than politics. He lived near the Panathinaikos soccer stadium and he still attends every home game.

But at high school in the 1980s, Tsipras joined the Young Communists Society. When the government proposed education privatization in 1990, 16-year-old Tsipras led an occupation of his high school to oppose the reforms. Interviewed on national television at the time, Tsipras said: “We would like it to be our right to decide if, at some point, we want to skip class.”

Tsipras remained active in student politics while training as a civil engineer in Athens but it was his run for election as mayor of Athens in 2006 that raised his national profile. Though Tsipras was fighting his first major election and representing a new party — the Syriza coalition had been formed two years earlier from an alliance of left-wing groups such as the Greens and the Maoists — he managed third place.

Tsipras was elected as the leader of the Syriza party two years later, making him Greece’s youngest political leader at the age of 34. He flourished in the wake of Greece’s economic crisis. “Greece has been a European and international experiment, and the Greek people have been the guinea pigs,” Tsipras told TIME in a 2012 interview, just before the elections in which Syriza become the second-biggest party in parliament. The party won 3.3% of the vote in the 2004 elections and nearly 27% in 2012.

Two and a half years later, more than 50% of under-25s in Greece are unemployed and many of them have been encouraged by Tsipras’ campaign slogan of “Hope is coming!”

Tsipras has already made his mark in his first day as prime minister. He is Greece’s first unmarried prime minister and the first to take a secular oath of office. He has a family — he has been with his longtime partner Peristera (Betty) Batziana since high school — and they have two sons, the youngest of whom is named after Argentinian Marxist revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

But Tsipras appears to have softened his politics since his youth and he and his party have worked hard to broaden his appeal and prepare him for power. He has met with high-profile figures like the European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and talked with church leaders (including meeting with Pope Francis) to calm fears about his own lack of religious faith.

At the presidential palace on Monday, Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues stood out in their uniform of suits and open-necked shirts. After his inauguration, the new prime minister left the palace to visit the National Resistance Museum to honour Greeks killed by Germany and her allies in the Second World War. Tsipras has persuaded the Greek electorate to back him. Now he has just over two weeks before he has to put Greece’s case to his European counterparts on Feb. 12 in the Latvian capital, Riga.

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