What We Know So Far
- ISIS militant "Jihadi John" has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a 26-year-old man who was born in Kuwait and grew up in London.
- Emwazi is known as the ISIS public executioner, who, in videos released by the group, often addresses the camera in a British accent before apparently beheading or killing the hostage.
- He was previously questioned by British security services in 2010 after returning home from a safari in Tanzania, which one advocacy group said led to his radicalization.
- Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday defended the intelligence services, saying they should be thanked for their work.
- Here is a timeline of everything we know about how Emwazi became known as "Jihadi John".
The Telegraph has this photo of Emwazi, and reported that school officials said he was bullied. “He wasn’t a particularly social young man. He didn’t have a huge group of friends,” said the former headteacher at the Quintin Kynaston academy in London.
Meanwhile, the Guardian also has a new photo of Emwazi and reported that one of Emwazi's former bosses at a a Kuwaiti IT company thought he was a model employee.
"He was the best employee we ever had," the former boss said of the then 21-year-old. "He was very good with people. Calm and decent. He came to our door and gave us his CV."
He said staff were surprised that a Londoner would want to come and work in Kuwait, as many of his peers in the region would be looking to make the journey in the opposite direction. The former boss added that, after a stellar probation period, the Briton disappeared completely in April 2010 after a trip to London.
"How could someone as calm and quiet as him become like the man who we saw on the news? It's just not logical that he could be this guy."
Channel 4 obtained emails between Emwazi and activist group CAGE about his treatment by British security officials. CAGE has said this incident, while Emwazi was trying to board a plane at Heathrow to Kuwait, contributed to his radicalization.
Emwazi told CAGE that anti-terror officers "searched and had his phone, SIM card, laptop and USBs taken."
He says a police officer wearing a turban "reached out for the Holy Quran and put it on the floor & I asked him to put it onto the chair rather than on the floor. He started to get aggressive, changing his tone of voice. He said 'I've put it onto the chair now, so just shutup' and I replied 'You shutup'. He stood up aggressively and came into me face, pushing me back onto the floor. At that point I told the other officers that I was not going to answer any-more questions until this aggressive and angry person that has hate for me for no reason, got out of the room. He later stood outside".
He said the officers treated him very roughly:
"[One officer] grabbed onto my t-shirt and throw me onto the wall, garbing onto my beard and lasting strangling my by my neck. All this was happing to me while the officers sat down casually not stopping or doing anything. When the Asian officer realised I was having difficulty breathing, he finally let go of my neck. At this point I was absolutely shocked and completely baffled".
He said he filed a complaint with a police review board, who told him the only thing they could do was notify the officer of the complaint.
"I also hope that both our efforts, put an end of the oppression that so often happens under the hands of those that believe they are above the law, taking advantage of the "Police uniform", acting like 'Robocop', rather than civilized humans."
In a statement, the Pittsburgh Pirates said it was "sickening" to see a "murderer" wear a Pirates cap in the new photo.
The classic gold P stands for Pittsburgh, and is worn by our players, coaches and fans with a great sense of pride. It is absolutely sickening to everyone within the Pirates organization, and to our great fans, to see this murderer wearing a Pirates cap in this old photo.
Sky News has broadcast this picture, claiming it is an image of Mohammed Emwazi from his time at the University of Westminster.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News the government is "working on" ways to kill or capture Emwazi.
"I think there is something to be said for holding accountable [and] getting at the people who are responsible for these barbaric acts," Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News' Pierre Thomas in what is likely to be one of Holder's last TV interviews before stepping down.
Holder refused to confirm those reports, insisting nothing "would be served" by revealing the true identity of the masked man.
"It would cut back any of the operational possibilities we have been considering," Holder added.
Nevertheless, asked whether he can guarantee "Jihadi John" will face justice, Holder said: "The vow that I can make to the American people, along with our allies, is that we will hold accountable all of the people who have been responsible for these heinous, barbaric acts. ... That is something that we are focused on each and every day."
A Downing Street spokesperson has described the suggestion that the security services were responsible for Emwazi's radicalisation as "completely reprehensible".
She told journalists at a scheduled briefing that "the people responsible for these murders are the people that we have seen in the videos". She added: "We should not be seeking to put blame on other people, particularly those who are working to keep British citizens safe."
Asked whether David Cameron would be sorry to see "a bullet between [Emwazi's] eyes", the spokesperson insisted: "The prime minister wants to see the murderers brought to justice."
Speaking separately in Cardiff, Cameron insisted that he had full confidence in the work of the intelligence services. He said: "I'm satisfied we have in place the right ways of scrutinising the work these extraordinary men and women do on our behalf.
"All I can say is, even in the last few months, their dedication and work has saved us from plots on the streets of the United Kingdom that could have done immense damage.
"I think it is a moment to stand up and thank them for the work they do on our behalf."
A caller named Mohammed spoke to LBC radio this morning and claimed he went to primary school with Emwazi.
He told the London radio station: "He was a year older than me. This was around 2003.
"I remember him very well. His surname I did not remember, but I got a text picture from my sister this morning, showing him in the red sweatshirt. My sister said: 'Do you remember this guy? He's the half-Kuwaiti guy who was a good friend of ours at school.'
"And when I read further, with two younger sisters and a dad as a taxi driver, I remembered him very well. To be honest, his mum was a very good friend of my mum and used to sell gold in the local community.
"We knew the family quite well. Three years ago there was suspicion of Mohammed Emwazi being involved in terror. So my mum completely broke contact – we didn't want to be involved."
The caller went on to claim that Emwazi once ran into a metal goalpost as a child and hit his head.
"He was not the same ever since that brain injury," the caller said. "I am telling you 1 million per cent. He was not the same."
Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of Parliament's intelligence and security committee, said it was likely to seek answers from the security services on what they knew about "Jihadi John", but not till after the general election in May.
"I think it will be for the committee formed in the next parliament to ask for a report and then, if it thinks it necessary, to take evidence from the relevant security services," The Scotsman quoted him as saying.
Campbell claimed the committee had not been informed of "Jihadi John"'s true identity.
He added: "I'm totally unaware of that and I wouldn't have expected it to be the case, because although the committee is entitled to some evidence about operational activities, that is by and large after these operations have been concluded.
"One of the difficulties here is you can't keep an eye on everyone all the time, and, as the committee found in the case of Lee Rigby, there's no doubt that from time to time the security services have got to prioritise those upon whom they are conducting surveillance."
Support for British involvement in air strikes against ISIS has increased dramatically since September, according to figures from YouGov.
The Times reported that the number of people who would support UK air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria has risen by 11%.
According to YouGov's survey, which took place during February, 63% of Britons would be in favour of military action, with 17% opposed.
Support is weaker, however, for the involvement of troops on the ground: 32% would be in favour, versus 45% against.
The mother of US journalist James Foley, who was murdered by Emwazi in August 2014, said she forgives his killer.
Diane Foley told The Times: "It saddens me, his [Emwazi's] continued hatred. He felt wronged, now we hate him — now that just prolongs the hatred. We need to end it.
"As a mum I forgive him. You know, the whole thing is tragic — an ongoing tragedy."
The Sun has the picture of a young Emwazi on its front page this morning:
The Daily Mail also had the same picture of what it called an "angelic schoolboy who turned into a reviled executioner".
The Washington Post has published this video explaining how it identified Emwazi as "Jihadi John".
"We picked up a first name, and then part of a last name," said reporter Adam Goldman. "And then it just took getting on the ground in London and knocking on doors."
Two British men who said they met Emwazi at a Syrian hospital described him as aggressive and "always ready for war".
The medics met Emwazi separately while working at the hospital in 2013, ITV reported.
They said Emwazi would come to visit his friends in the hospital wearing full combat gear and carrying weapons. They said he strongly disliked Britain, and identified himself as Yemeni-Kuwaiti.
"He told me clear cut he had no intention of returning from London," one said. "He said no way and if you ask him if he was British he would say kind of. He didn't say yes. He was happy where he was, you could tell in a funny way he was at rest."
The medics said that when they met Emwazi, he was a fighter with Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda. They described him as friendly and caring toward those he was visiting in the hospital, but also aggressive.
"From what I've heard, from the way that he deals with difficult incidents, is that he seems to be someone with not really much to lose," on medic told ITV. "There have been incidents where there have been run-ins at checkpoints and he's dealt with people in a sort of way – a careless manner, gung-ho manner, with disregard for his own life and safety."
The medics said they were shocked to discover that Emwazi could be accused of being so violent.
More information on Cage, the Muslim activist group that helped identify "Jihadi John":
Cage was set up more than a decade ago by Moazzem Begg, a British citizen who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and then detained in Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of being an enemy combatant. He was held for almost three years before being released without charge. He was arrested again in the U.K. on seven terrorism-related charges in Feb. 2014, in connection with a trip to Syria, although the charges were dropped in October. ...
While Cage is well respected among many British Muslims, especially those of a conservative bent, its critics say it is too sympathetic to Islamist extremists.
White House press secretary John Earnest said in a briefing Thursday that he could not confirm or deny the identity of "Jihadi John".
A schoolfriend of Emwazi told BuzzFeed News that he's "shocked" at today's reports.
Speaking anonymously – on the grounds that he feared for his job prospects if he was cited in news reports related to "Jihadi John" – the schoolfriend described Emwazi as a "typical northwest London boy".
He told BuzzFeed News: "He seemed like a nice guy. He seemed confident in the way he carried himself but didn't really show himself off. He seemed like a down-to-earth person and humble."
The schoolfriend echoed statements in the Washington Post that Emwazi was fashion-conscious, saying that he often wore "street clothing, things like Nike flat caps".
The schoolfriend described a young man who might be compared to any other 16-year-old: "He liked football and he was friends with everyone. All the Indian boys, all the Pakistani boys, people from different religions, he spoke to everyone."
"I don't think he was particularly religious at the time," he added.
He also expressed his shock at the fact that his schoolfriend could now be involved in killing people in Syria. He said: "It's confusing how it can go that far down and how he can change that much. It's one thing to have thoughts, and it's one thing to kill people. That's crazy. I'm kind of in shock that it's gone that far."
The pair were both at Quintin Kynaston Community Academy between 2004 and 2006, when they were aged between 16 and 18.
Families of some of the Western hostages executed by ISIS have been commenting on the news:
The daughter of David Haines, the British aid worker killed in September 2014, has been speaking to ITV News.
Meanwhile, the family of Steven Sotloff, the American-Israeli journalist beheaded in one of the group's videos, said they "look forward to the day they can see Mohammed Emwazi sitting in an American courtroom".
"We want to watch him sentenced and see him sent to a supermax prison to spend the rest of his days in isolation," they added. "That's American justice, that's how we deal with things in this country."
A British news agency is now reporting that Emwazi went on trial for stealing bikes four years ago.
The jury apparently cleared him of five charges of possessing criminal property, including a Trek Alpha and a Cannondale Bad Boy.
A Daily Telegraph reporter based in Africa appears to have confirmed that Emwazi was indeed arrested in Tanzania in 2009. The newspaper said:
In the press conference, Cage UK said Emwazi's family still do not believe he is "Jihadi John", and insisted it had not been in contact with him since he left the UK.
The White House's National Security Council issued this statement:
The U.S. Government continues to investigate the murder of American citizens by ISIL. 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. Along with our coalition partners, the United States will continue to lead the fight to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.
In a press conference, Asim Qureshi of the activist group Cage described Emwazi as a "kind, gentle, soft-spoken young man".
He repeated the group's allegations that the security services have "abused ... and abused the rights" not only of Emwazi, but of many Muslim Britons. He also warned that it was impossible for him to be 100% sure that Emwazi was the jihadi in question.
Worshippers at the Greenwich Islamic Centre have denied that Emwazi was a regular attendee at the mosque.
The Washington Post said Emwazi "on occasion prayed at a mosque in Greenwich," but worshippers at the Greenwich Islamic Centre told BuzzFeed News that they were not aware of him.
"I do not know of this man at the mosque", one worshipper told BuzzFeed News. "Despite what the media say, the mosque is not extremist or anything."
The mosque also released a statement, acknowledging that Emwazi might have visited the center for prayers, "like tens of thousands of people do each month." But, the center said, "we have no knowledge of any such visit made by him."
The center added: "There has never been any link whatsoever between the Centre and Mohammad Emwazi."
The center went on to condemn "extremist ideology" and express sadness that "yet another young member of our society has allegedly ended up radicalized in the hands of extremists, which is totally and utterly against the teachings of Islam."
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College London issued a statement saying it believes Emwazi is typical of British jihadis fighting with ISIS. It said:
We believe... the identity and name published by the Washington Post and now in the public realm to be accurate and correct.
'Jihadi John' is not special in the sense that all the foreign fighters have tried to hide their identity by using pseudonyms or literally by masking themselves.
The fact that 'Jihadi John' has been unveiled in this manner demonstrates that whatever efforts are made, the ability to mask one's identity is limited or in fact impossible, and their true identities will eventually be revealed.
This demonstrates what we have long said about radicalisation, that it is not something driven by poverty or social deprivation. Ideology clearly plays a big role in motivating some men to participate in jihadist causes.
British fighters have clearly demonstrated that they are not in this conflict to take a back seat. They are full participants in this war, operating as suicide bombers, hostage takers, and executioners.
The dean of the University of Westminster's science and technology faculty, Professor Jane Lewis, has refused to comment on Emwazi.
Cage UK, the activist group campaigning against ill-treatment of Muslims, has now provided far more details on Emwazi and his background.
In a lengthy article on its website, the group said he came to it in 2009 "after being detained, interrogated and recruited by Mi5 on what was meant to be a safari holiday to Tanzania. Thereafter, the harassment continued and intensified which led to him losing two fiancées, his job and new life in Kuwait." It claimed that this "harassment and abuse" was largely responsible for his radicalisation.
It said Emwazi was born in Kuwait in 1988, but moved to the UK at the age of 6 with his family. The post contains an extremely lengthy account of how Emwazi was radicalised, beginning with a trip to Tanzania after leaving university in which he and his companions were allegedly arrested, stripped to their underwear, denied food and drink, and threatened with a gun by local police. The three were then returned to the UK via Amsterdam, where Emwazi was allegedly interrogated by British intelligence officials, who attempted to recruit him as an informant. Officials also apparently spoke to Emwazi's family and fiancée, who broke off their engagement.
The group said Emwazi then moved to Kuwait in order to escape the security services' claimed harassment. However, on a visit to the UK, he was prevented from returning and told his visa had been refused. As a result, he lost his job and his engagement to another woman was broken off.
The Cage piece alleges that Emwazi was consistently monitored and harassed by security services and other authorities. By now he was in regular contact with Asim Qureshi of Cage, whom he informed of his consistent desire to settle in Kuwait. He also filed a complaint about his treatment with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which was rejected.
In 2012, Emwazi took and passed a course to teach English as a foreign language. In early 2013, his father apparently suggested that he should change his name in order to make it easier to travel; from this point he was officially known as Mohammed al-Ayan.
The ruse failed, and Emwazi was refused entry to Kuwait a third time. He left his parents' home, and was reported as a missing person. His family apparently believed that he was in Turkey assisting refugees, but police visited four months after his departure to say that they had information that he had entered Syria.
The University of Westminster confirmed that Emwazi graduated there in 2009 and expressed its disgust at the news, saying:
If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern. With other universities in London, we are working to implement the Government's Prevent strategy to tackle extremism. "We are setting up a dedicated pastoral team to provide advice and support. In the meantime, we urge any students who are concerned to contact the Student Support and Well-being team.
The University of Westminster has long been criticised for hosting radical speakers with extremist links.
In 2011, The Telegraph reported claims that the university's student-union president had called for the establishment of an Islamic state, and that his vice president had been accused of promoting the extremist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir:
The newly elected vice-president, Mr Achchi, has circulated documents published by Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Mr Achchi used Scribd, a social networking site, to post Hizb ut-Tahrir memos calling on Muslims to overthrow democracy and establish the Khilafah.
Cage UK, an activist group which claims to "empower communities impacted by the War on Terror" had discussions with Emwazi before he left for Syria, has issued a statement blaming British foreign policy for his radicalisation:
Like Michael Adebolajo [the killer of British soldier Lee Rigby], suffocating domestic policies aimed at turning a person into an informant but which prevent a person from fulfilling their basic life needs would have left a lasting impression on Emwazi. He desperately wanted to use the system to change his situation, but the system ultimately rejected him. We now have evidence that there are several young Britons whose lives were not only ruined by security agencies, but who became disenfranchised and turned to violence because of British counter-terrorism policies coupled with long-standing grievances over Western foreign policy. This case should trigger thinking about British domestic and foreign policy. What risk assessments, if any, have been made about British counter-terrorism policy and the key part it plays in radicalising individuals? How have the security services been allowed to get away with abusing British citizens without redress? Why are the long-standing grievances over Western interventions in the Muslim world been ignored?
Cage has consistently maintained that British policy is fuelling radicalisation.
One of the organisation's directors is Moazzam Begg, a Briton who was formerly detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay and was arrested on terror charges by British police in 2014. He was later released without charge.
One of Emwazi's neighbours in Queen's Park, who identified himself only as Abdullah, told reporters that the family seemed very normal.
"Jihadi John" appeared in multiple ISIS videos, threatening hostages who would later be killed.
Peter Kassig, a US aid worker, killed in November 2014.
David Cawthorne Haines, a Scottish aid worker, killed in September 2014.
Alan Henning, a British aid worker, killed in October 2014.
The naming of Emwazi appears to discredit earlier reports naming "Jihadi John" as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a London rapper.
The jihadist fighter had previously been named as the most likely of three suspects being investigated by the British security services. Abdel Bary is believed to be an ISIS fighter, however, having been pictured holding the severed head of a prisoner in Syria.
British officials are not pleased with the decision to identify "Jihadi John". David Cameron's spokesperson declined to confirm his identity.
Reporters are gathering outside the flat in Queen's Park where Emwazi's family are believed to live.
Emwazi has been previously named in UK court documents as having connections to a network of Islamist extremists based in Somalia.
"Jihadi John", the masked ISIS militant who featured in videos threatening the beheading of multiple hostages, has been identified as a west Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi by the BBC and the Washington Post, which cited Emwazi's friends and individuals in the security services.
"Jihadi John" appeared in multiple videos wielding a knife and threatening ISIS hostages including journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, US national Peter Kassig, and Japanese nationals Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto Jogo.
Emwazi was described by the Washington Post as a computer science graduate from the University of Westminster.
The newspaper said Emwazi was born in Kuwait and was depicted by those who knew him as someone who was "polite and had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith". He is believed to be 26 years old.
He was described as being from a well-off family, and as having spent several years working in Kuwait before heading to Syria in around 2012.
The newspaper said Emwazi had also operated under the name Muhammad ibn Muazzam, and that British security services questioned him in 2010.
An individual named Muhammad ibn Muazzam was identified by The Independent in May 2010 as having been questioned by security services with a friend after coming home from a safari in Tanzania.
"The men allege they were harassed by MI5, who warned them they were now on a terror watch list which prevented them travelling to any Muslim country," The Independent reported at the time.
In the piece, the two men claimed they were "held for 'days' in inhumane detention on the orders of MI5".
The Guardian has obtained emails in which Emwazi said MI5 attempted to recruit him. The newspaper wrote:
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".
Commander Richard Walton of the Metropolitan police's Counter Terrorism Command unit has declined to confirm the identity of the jihadi, saying:
We have previously asked media outlets not to speculate about the details of our investigation on the basis that life is at risk.
We are not going to confirm the identity of anyone at this stage or give an update on the progress of this live counter-terrorism investigation.