Ji­hadi John killed in self-de­fence, says PM

Vic­tims’ fam­i­lies ex­press mixed emo­tions

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD - ESTELLE SHIR­BON

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.

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