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26 February 2015updated 24 Jul 2021 2:35pm

Islamic State terrorist “Jihadi John” identified as British man Mohammed Emwazi

Friends have identified the Islamic State member, who has beheaded several hostages, as Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi from West London.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The masked terrorist known as Jihadi John, who has beheaded several hostages in videos widely circulated online, has been identified as Kuwati-born Mohammed Emwazi. He grew up in west London, according to friends. 

He reportedly has a degree in computer programming, and is believed to have travelled to Syria in 2012.

“I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” said a former close friend of the militant, who identified him in an interview with the Washington Post. “He was like a brother to me. . .  I am sure it is him.”A representive of a British human rights group also said he believed Emwazi was Jihadi John.

Emwazi first came to represent the violence of Islamic State when a videoappeared last August showing him kill the American journalist James Foley. He is also thought to have been pictured in the videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig. As recently as last month, Emwazi appeared in a video with two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, shortly before they were killed.

Shiraz Maher, a Senior Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and NS writer, commented:

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These guys go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their identities, and this demonstrates that they will always leak out in the end. There are always going to be people who know their real identity, and so it will eventually come out.

In terms of how this will effect the extremists, it won’t change things operationally for them: they have experienced lots of cases of revealed identities in the past, and it doesn’t really effect them. But they will take a hit psychologically, as they have made such a great effort to hide Emwazi’s identity and protect him.

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In an essay for the NS, Maher comments on the flux of British extremists to Syria and beyond:

[The] flow of foreign fighters has worried governments across Europe, from where more than 3,000 people are thought to have travelled to support jihadists in Syria and Iraq. The consequences of this mobilisation have been far-reaching. The Syrian crisis revived the fortunes of the global jihad movement and it has never been stronger. It is better manned, better equipped and better financed than at any other point in the past century. Indeed, despite limited western intervention, the sheer number of IS fighters – many of them foreign – makes it impossible to see how the group will be uprooted any time soon.