Jihadi John killed in self-defence, says PM
Victims’ families express mixed emotions
LONDON: News the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John” may have died in a US air strike brought relief mingled with grief and vengeful thoughts yesterday to the loved ones of the two British aid workers he killed on video.
But beyond the emotional impact, experts on extremism questioned whether the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born Briton who came to symbolise the brutality of the IS, would signify progress in the fight against the group.
Emwazi was described as the IS’s “lead executioner” by UK prime minister David Cameron, who praised the two British victims, Alan Henning and David Haines, as “the best of British”.
Relatives and friends of the two men expressed a range of sometimes conflicting thoughts and emotions.
“After seeing the news that Jihadi John was killed I felt an instant sense of relief, knowing he wouldn’t appear in any more horrific videos,” Bethany Haines, teenage daughter of Haines, told ITV News.
“As much as I wanted him dead, I also wanted answers as to why he did it. ‘Why my dad?’ ‘How did it make a difference?’”
Her comments were echoed by Reg Henning, brother of Alan Henning, who told the BBC: “I was glad to hear he had been killed, but I would have preferred him to have been brought to justice.”
Stuart Henning, a nephew of Alan, wrote on Twitter of his own reaction to the news. “Mixed feelings today wanted the coward behind the mask to suffer the way Alan and his friends did but also glad it’s been destroyed.”
Highlighting the gruesome impact of Emwazi’s propaganda videos, Alan Henning’s 18-year-old daughter Lucy said on a TV chat show she first found out her father had been killed when she saw a picture of his body on Instagram. “It was the final picture, after the execution,” Lucy Henning said on the ITV show, which was filmed before news of Emwazi’s likely death.
“I try not to think about them,” she said of the IS militants. “I think I’m still numb.”
A close friend of Alan Henning, Louise Woodward-Styles, posted pictures on Twitter of a beaming Alan, saying: “This is the image we should be sharing. A real brave human. Not one of a veiled coward.”
She also had retribution on her mind: “Evil personified. Karma comes around and I pray he was served his.”
Beyond the circle of those directly affected by Emwazi’s killings, there was unanimous condemnation of Emwazi but also concerns over the manner of his reported death.
“It appears Mohammed Emwazi has been held to account for his callous and brutal crimes. However, it would have been far better for us all if he had been held to account in a court of law,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Labour, the main opposition party.
But the strike was praised as “the right thing to do” by Cameron, who said in a statement outside his Downing Street office that Britain had acted “hand in glove” with the Americans and it was “an act of self-defence”.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain’s leading Muslim organisations, said it would have been better if Emwazi had been captured and tried, but he understood why this was not possible.
“Extra-judicial killing over justice in a court of law should not become the norm in the fight against terrorism,” he said in a statement.
Some experts said Emwazi’s death would be symbolically important, but unlikely to make much difference to the IS or to the struggle against radicalisation among some young British Muslims.
“Islamic State will survive Jihadi John,” said Jonathan Russell, political liaison officer at the Quilliam Foundation, which aims to debunk the belief systems of Islamic extremism. “If we’re going to make any sort of progress on winning this global war against jihadism, we’ve got to focus on the ideology and win the battle of ideas.”
Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, said Emwazi’s fate would help undermine the IS’s image of invincibility, a key element in its appeal to some young Muslims in Western countries.
Emwazi’s fate also elicited comment from Cage, an activist group that was in contact with him before he became the masked Jihadi John.
Cage caused controversy after Emwazi’s identity was disclosed earlier this year by saying he may have been radicalised by the security services.
Cage expressed sympathy with Emwazi’s victims and said he should have been tried as a war criminal.
” Emwazi’s execution of defenceless hostages was inexcusable. But all avenues that led him to that point need to be investigated,” said Adnan Siddiqui, director of Cage. – Reuters
PROPAGANDA: Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John.