ISIS confirms death of executioner ‘Jihadi John’
WASHINGTON — ISIS has confirmed the death of “Jihadi John” — aka Mohammed Emwazi, aka Abu Muharib al-Muhajir — in the latest issue of its Dabiq magazine.
U.S. officials said in November that they were reasonably certain the English-speaking voice of the terror group had been killed in a targeted drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS’ de facto capital.
The confirmation in Dabiq was the first time ISIS addressed the militant’s death. The magazine told the story of his journey into ISIS in a two-page article and reported that he was killed instantly by the drone strike.
As the masked face of ISIS, Jihadi John was featured in a series of hostage videos, dressed head-to-toe in black — his eyes and voice his lone revealing features — and holding a knife.
Earlier this month, a British-sounding militant appeared in a chilling propaganda video from ISIS. The speaker’s accent and dress brought to mind Jihadi John, and the latter’s absence lent credence to Western intelligence agencies’ belief that he was indeed dead.
Dabiq published an image of Jihadi John with his face unmasked.
It reported he was originally from the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula, and that he traveled at a young age with his family to London, a place he “grew to hate.”
Dabiq said he was shot in the back during one battle in Syria.
Joined ISIS in 2012
By his own account, Emwazi was born in Kuwait, and it is believed he moved to London as a child. Friends say they think he started down the road to radicalization when he traveled to Tanzania in 2009, The Washington Post reported this year.
He was supposed to be going on safari in the East African nation, but he was reportedly detained on arrival, held overnight and then deported. He was also detained by counterterrorism officials in Britain in 2010, The Post said. Authorities have not disclosed the reasons for those reported detentions.
Emwazi is believed to have traveled to Syria in 2012 and joined ISIS there. He soon became a regular in hostage videos and participated in beheadings.
For some periods in 2015, Emwazi was not seen in videos, though U.S. officials told CNN in July they had learned he was alive and hiding near Raqqa. He may have been lying low for fear of being targeted, though the U.S. government believes he remained involved in kidnapping and killing cells.
Analysts describe him as grotesque and fond of sadistic torture techniques, with one former hostage recounting in October how his captor made him dance the tango with him.
“Suddenly, he changed and just pushed me down,” Daniel Rye, a 26-year-old photographer, recalled to Danish broadcaster DR. “They kicked and hit me. They finished by threatening to cut my nose off with pliers and things like that.”
There was no evidence suggesting Jihadi John was an important spiritual leader of the group, as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is, nor is there any evidence he played any kind of important military role for ISIS.
But he was a celebrity within the terror organization.
He was first seen in a video posted on YouTube in August 2014 that showed him holding a knife and threatening U.S. journalist James Foley. The video ends by showing Foley’s decapitated body.
Emwazi also is believed to have played a role in the beheadings of American journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British volunteer Alan Henning, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.