US air strike targets ‘Jihadi John’ in Syria
Washington ‘reasonably certain’ Emwazi is dead
LONDON: A US strike on Syria that targeted British militant “Jihadi John” was “an act of self-defense”, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday, while acknowledging his death was “not yet certain”. Cameron said the operation on Thursday against Mohammed Emwazi, who appeared in a string of graphic videos showing the execution of Western hostages, was a combined British-US effort. In a statement delivered outside his Downing Street office, Cameron said that, if confirmed, Emwazi’s death would be “a strike at the heart” of the Islamic State militant (IS) group.
The US military is “reasonably certain” a US drone strike killed the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John,” a British citizen who appeared in videos of militants beheading Western journalists and aid workers, a spokesman said yesterday.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, told a Pentagon briefing that Mohammed Emwazi was thought to have been killed in the Syrian town of Raqa by a US drone firing a Hellfire missile, but that the military still needed final verification.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking on a visit to Tunis, warned the group’s “days are numbered”, as Iraqi Kurdish officials declared that IS had been beaten back from the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq. Analysts said the impact of Emwazi’s death would likely be symbolic rather than tactical for the jihadist group which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria and is known for widespread atrocities.
The Pentagon said Thursday’s air strike hit Raqa, the group’s de facto capital in war-torn Syria. US media reported that it was a drone strike. “Emwazi, a British citizen, participated in the videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and a number of other hostages,” the Pentagon said in a statement. He was last seen in the video showing Goto’s execution in January.
Emwazi, a London computer programmer, was born in Kuwait to a stateless family of Iraqi origin. His parents moved to Britain in 1993 after their hopes of obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship were quashed. Dubbed “Jihadi John” after hostages nicknamed a group of IS guards The Beatles, he first appeared in a video in August 2014 showing the beheading of Foley, a 40-year-old American freelance journalist captured in Syria in 2012. — Agencies
LONDON: Journalists knock on doors in London yesterday at a residential address where Kuwaiti-born London computer programmer Mohammed Emwazi, (inset) identified by experts and the media as masked IS militant ‘Jihadi John’, is once believed to have lived.