The masked Islamist militant who shocked and horrified the world by executing journalists and aid workers in videos that marked a new level of brutality in terrorism has finally been identified, according to multiple reports Thursday.
Multiple news outlets including the Washington Post and BBC, citing unnamed sources, report that authorities and people familiar with the case now believe the man formerly known only as “Jihadi John” is actually Mohammed Emwazi, from West London. Emwazi is now thought to be the man in front of the camera on the beheading videos produced and circulated by the militant group Islamist State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). He’s believed to be the man who executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter
“I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” the Post quoted an unnamed friend as saying of Emwazi. “He was like a brother to me. … I am sure it is him.” The New York Times cited an unnamed senior British security official who confirmed Emwazi’s identity.
Emwazi is believed to have appeared in multiple videos depicting the gruesome killing of hostages, each time wearing a black garment covering all but his eyes. Now in his mid-twenties, Emwazi was born in Kuwait but grew up in a middle class family in Britain and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.
Friends told the Post he was radicalized after what they say was a planned safari trip in Tanzania in 2009. His group was detained en route in Somalia and deported. Emwazi later told his friends he was met in Europe by a British intelligence officer who accused him of trying to support the al-Shabab militant group in Somalia and who tried to recruit him, the Post reports.
He became increasingly disillusioned with the West, according to emails he sent to a friend. He later moved to Kuwait, but was detained on a visit to London in June 2010 and prevented from leaving the country.
Security services have known his identity for some time but have not revealed it to the public, BBC reports.
A spokesperson at the British embassy in Washington decline to confirm the identity of “Jihadi John,” citing an “ongoing police investigation,” according to the Post. “Our prime minister has been clear that we want all those who have committed murder on behalf of ISIS to face justice for the appalling acts carried out,” the spokesperson said.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, did not confirm Emwazi’s identify.
“The U.S. Government continues to investigate the murder of American citizens by [ISIS],” Meehan said. “We will not comment on ongoing investigations and therefore are not in a position to confirm or deny the identity of this individual. As the President has said, no matter how long it takes, the United States will not rest until we find and hold accountable the terrorists who are responsible for the murders of our citizens. We are working closely with our international partners, including the British Government, to do everything we can to bring these murderers to justice.”