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IS group confirms death of ‘Jihadi John’ in Syria drone strike

© Youtube (screengrab) | Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed 'Jihadi John' was killed in an air strike in Syria in November, the Islamic State group has said

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-01-20

The Islamic State (IS) group confirmed on Tuesday that "Jihadi John," a British citizen who appeared in several videos in which Western journalists and aid workers were beheaded, was killed during a drone strike in Syria in November last year.

In its online magazine Dabiq, the group said the militant, real name Mohammed Emwazi, was killed on November 12 as the car he was in was "targeted in a strike by an unmanned drone in the city of Raqqa, destroying the car and killing him instantly".

The US military said at the time that it was “reasonably certain” it had killed Emwazi in a drone strike.

“Jihadi John” gained infamy and media attention after appearing masked in several gruesome Islamic State group videos and speaking in a distinctive British accent.

He was later identified as Emwazi, a-27-year-old Kuwait-born man who had moved with his family to London when he was six years old.

Emwazi has been described by a former hostage as a bloodthirsty psychopath who enjoyed threatening Western hostages.

Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa, who had been held in Syria for more than six months after his abduction in September 2013, said Emwazi would explain precisely how the militants carried out beheadings.

Those being held by three British-sounding captors nicknamed them "the Beatles" with "Jihadi John" a reference to Beatles member John Lennon, Espinosa said in recalling his months as one of more than 20 hostages.

'Glad he's gone'

Among those beheaded by Islamic State group militants in videos posted online since August 2014 were US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, told AP on Tuesday that she hadn’t heard about the IS announcement but assumed Emwazi was dead following the Army’s announcement last fall.

“It’s good,” she said. “I’m glad that he’s gone, but it doesn’t bring back my son.”

Jodi Perras, a spokeswoman for the Kassig family in Indianapolis, said they had no comment on the news about Emwazi.

In the gruesome videos, a tall masked figure clad in black and speaking in a British accent typically began with a political rant taunting the West and a kneeling hostage clad in an orange prison-style jumpsuit before him, then ended it holding an oversize knife in his hand with the headless victim lying before him in the sand. The videos don’t make clear if he carried out the actual killings.

He also appeared as a narrator in videos of other beheadings, including the mass killing of captive Syrian government soldiers.

Propaganda figure

Emwazi spent part of his childhood in a poor area of Kuwait before moving to Britain as a boy, according to news reports quoting Syrian activists who knew the family. He attended state schools in London, then studied computer science at the University of Westminster.

The Dabiq article said he became involved in jihadi activity around the time of the 2005 attacks on the London transit system, and came under the scrutiny of the British intelligence agency MI5. It said he arrived in Syria in the latter part of 2012, and was later wounded while fighting with IS forces in Syria.

Dabiq claimed that Emwazi displayed his “kindness and generosity” by giving away a concubine he had received as a gift to an unmarried injured IS fighter.

The eulogy appeared in the 13th issue of Dabiq magazine, named for a town in northern Syria that Islamic State fighters believe will be the site of an apocalyptic battle between it and Western forces. The magazine contains articles, interviews and opinion pieces about the group.

Distributed online as a .pdf file, it has a professional layout, including photos and graphics, giving it the appearance of a glossy magazine.

The online magazine is part of a media operation that has produced scores of graphic, professionally produced videos of military operations and the killing of captives in Iraq, Syria and other countries like Libya and Afghanistan, where the IS group has local affiliates and supporters. Emwazi figured heavily into that propaganda.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-01-19

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