NEWS

Mohammed Emwazi Revealed As Jihad John: What We Know About Islamic State's Most Wanted Man

26/02/2015 15:23 | Updated 02 March 2015

British university graduate Mohammed Emwazi has been outed as the brutal murderer featuring is a series of slick Islamic State videos.

His victims include the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, US aid worker Peter Kassig and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

Combining the scant information available via court documents and the electoral roll, media reports the file released by advocacy group CAGE, this is everything we know Islamic State's most wanted man.

jihad john

Jihad John aka Mohammed Emwazi

Name: Mohammed Emwazi

Age: 26, born in 1988

Place of Birth: Kuwait, moved to Britain at the age of six, and obtained British citizenship

Family: The child of a minicab driver and a stay-at-home mother, with two sisters and a brother

Languages: Arabic, English

Education: Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School, Maida Vale, Quintin Kynaston Community School in St Johns Wood, and then the University of Westminster, class of 2009, where he graduated in computer science

Spouse(s): Ex-fiancee in London, and ex-fiancee in Kuwait

Early life

Emwazi was six years old when he arrived in the UK with his family from Kuwait, and the family moved to a home in the affluent west London suburb of Maida Vale, into a council flat overlooking the canal. He grew up loving football, and supporting Manchester United, according to classmates who said he was the only Muslim pupil at his Church of England Primary school.

His fellow pupils told various newspapers that Emwazi was a quiet boy who initially struggled to learn English, but pleasant, and not particularly academic. Several described him as religious, and that he had given presentations to the class about Islam during religious studies lessons, and fasted during Ramadan. Blue was his favourite colour, and he enjoyed eating chips and watching the Simpsons.

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Mohammed Emwazi as a schoolboy at Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School

A school yearbook published by the Daily Mail from when Emwazi was 10 years old saw him claim to be a fan of the sugary pop group S Club 7, and said he planned to be a goalscorer at a professional football club by the time he was 30. Instead, aged 26, he was waging a global war against Western civilisation, and murdering innocent aid workers and journalists.

He described his favourite computer game as shooting game "Duke Nukem: Time To Kill" and his favourite book as Goosebumps' "How To Kill A Monster".

Former classmates at St Mary Magdalene said Emwazi had got into occasional fights after school assemblies, but said he was usually reserved and dedicated to his religion.

"It was a Church of England school and he was the only Muslim in our class. One time we had an RE lesson and he got up and talked about his religion.

"He wrote Arabic on the board to show us what it looked like and how it went in the other direction. He showed us a religious text and spoke about what his religion was about.

"That was when we were eight or nine. He mentioned fasting. His English wasn’t very good throughout primary school. He could only say a few words at first – like his name and where he was from.

"He played football every lunchtime and at the after-school football club. Through football, he learned different words and expressions. Like all the guys, he always wanted to be the striker.

"He wasn’t so good in school, he was the bottom half of the class, but he was one of the sporty guys. He was popular."

Teenage years and friendships with would-be jihadists

Emwazi attended secondary school at Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, in St John’s Wood, the same year as NDubz popstar and X Factor judge Tulisa.

Details are sketchier about his time there but one classmate observed that his sisters began to wear the hijab around this time, though never the full-face veil. He won a place at the University of Westminster to study computer science, and many experts have posited the theory that it is this expertise that may have allowed him to remove practically all trace of himself from internet search engines.

He is said to have formed a close group of friends who admired the teachings of Hani al-Sibai, a proponent of jihadism who fled to London from Egypt and who the UK has attempted to deport.

According to the Guardian, three of that group are now dead, several are in prison, and one is living in Sudan after losing his British citizenship. The one that security services showed the closest interest in was Lebanese-born Bilal el-Berjawi, who grew up in the same area as Emwazi, and later joined the al Qaeada affiliate al-Shabaab in Somalia.

El-Berjawi was stripped of his UK citizenship, and killed in a US drone strike in January 2012, as was Mohamed Sakr, a fellow al-Shabaab fighter who had grown up with El-Berjawi.

It was associates like this that appear to have attracted the suspicions of MI5 and anti-terror police when Emwazi and his two friends booked a trip to Tanzania after graduation, to go on "safari".

August 2009: Emwazi travels to Tanzania

The recent graduate, who worshipped at a mosque in Greenwich, set out on a holiday to Tanzania with fellow Brit Abu Talib, and a German friend, who the Washington Post names as an Islamic convert called Omar. The trio claim they were planning to go on safari.

Emwazi told the Islamic human rights group CAGE that he was threatened when he landed in Dar es Salaam, and denied entry to the country.

He reported being detained by an armed officer called 'Emmanuel' who "physically dragged him to a car waiting outside and taken to a police station. He was thrown into a cell while officers tried to strip him to his underwear".

Emwazi said he was detained for 24 hours and threatened with guns and sticks, and was told by the British consulate that the Tanzanians had the right to refuse him entry.

He told CAGE that his guard showed a paper with his name, flight details and at the bottom, a piece of writing which said “refuse entry and send back to the UK with the same flight." The guard had intimated to him that the British government was behind his detention.

mohammed emwazi

The University of Westminster, in central London

August 2009: Detention in Amsterdam

CAGE, and an Independent newspaper report published after the incident, allege that Emwazi was also detained on his way back to Britain, via the Dutch capital.

British security services appear to have suspected that the group planned to travel to Somalia to join the militant jihadist group Al Shabaab, which Emwazi denied in emails to CAGE, though several of his peers did indeed join the militia in the coming years.

“He said that at the end of the day they had been following us and watching us closely. I told him that it was news to me and I had no idea about it. He knew everything about me; where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with.”

A government spokeswoman told the Independent the Security Service "operated within the law" and complaints about officers' alleged behaviour should be made to the independent commissioner who has the power to investigate allegations.

August 2009: Attempted 'MI5 recruitment' and terror watch list

Emwazi claimed that MI5 attempted to recruit him as an informant, according to emails seen by CAGE. But he claimed after he refused he was threatened with "being followed". The MI5 officer left his number for Emwazi.

August 2009: Questioned at Dover

Emwazi attempted to return to Britain by ferry to Dover from the Netherlands, but claims he was detained by the Anti-Terror Unit, and subjected to a body and property search.

He claimed he was then quizzed about his thoughts on 7/7 and 9/11, and again accused of wanting to travel to Somalia.

Emwazi threatened to sue the security services, and claimed the officers refused to give him their badge numbers.

I felt stuck. I did not know what to do. The door was shut and I just wanted to walk out of the room. How could I be treated like that? I am a British citizen and my government was threatening me and throwing allegations at me”.

September 2009: Breakdown of relationship, family visited by police, and re-location to Kuwait

Emwazi's fiancee was allegedly visited by MI5 officers. Her family were perturbed by the allegations against them and she and her parents called off the marriage.

His family were also allegedly investigated and questioned by anti-terror officers, and raised concerns about him remaining in the UK. Emwazi left Britain for Kuwait in late September, but his family claim they continued to receive enquiries about his whereabouts.

Emwazi worked for eight months in Kuwait for a "well-known computer programming company".

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A police officer is pictured near the home where Islamic State militant Mohammed Emwazi, popularly known as Jihadi John, is believed to have once lived

May 2010: Returns to the UK from Kuwait

Emwazi was detained at Heathrow airport, with his passport, phone and SIM card confiscated, according to his CAGE file. He was eventually allowed to pass through security, but officers allegedly asked him many details about his life in Kuwait.

Arriving home, Emwazi engaged a solicitor which he put in touch with his family.

June 2010 - Return to Kuwait

Eight days later, Emwazi went back to Kuwait, working for the same company as before, and his solicitor is alleged to have contacted anti-terror officers to warn them against contacting his family.

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Emwazi was in touch with Islamic human rights group CAGE, founded by former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg

August 2010 - Marriage plans and return to the UK

Emwazi had become engaged in Kuwait and planned to visit his family before the wedding. He alleged he was detained for six hours at Heathrow airport on arrival and interrogated about his religion and life in Kuwait, and alleges that he was roughly treated by one officer, who he then attempted to complain about, but whose details were not released.

He claimed:

"I had been allowed to use my phone to contact my father and friend so that they can come and pick me up as it was past midnight. So when my phone rang I picked-it up like usual, but this new Asian officer (…) told (me) to give him my phone I said to him "No!! I'm allowed to answer the phone" as the police officers have been letting me. "He said I don't care, I'm not them"

"So he just stood up reached to snatch the phone of me, but was unsuccessful. So he then grabbed onto my t-shirt and throw [sic] me onto the wall, garbing onto my beard and lasting strangling me 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. I took a minute to myself because I didn't know why he had done such a thing, so I asked him "Why!!" he said "You had your phone out and it’s a threat towards me."

Once he was released, Emwazi returned to his family home overnight and claims he then tried to return immediately to Kuwait. An airline official checked him into his flight to Dubai, but said his visa to Kuwait had been refused.

August 2010 - Visa refusal

Emwazi visited the Kuwaiti embassy, and later claimed UK intelligence had advised Kuwaiti officials not to allow him back into the country.

He lost his job, and the wedding to his new fiancee was cancelled.

September 2010 - Complaint to the IPCC

Emwazi contacted law enforcement offices and human rights groups, including CAGE, to ask them to help him with his watchlist status. He also filed a complaint to the IPCC against the officer who he alleged assaulted him at Heathrow.

June 2011 - Trouble with the law

Emwazi, who was still living at the Lancefield Street address in north west London, stood trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, accused of possessing "top of the range" stolen bikes, according to Court News.

A jury cleared him of the offence of possessing criminal property, including a Trek Alpha and a Cannondale Bad Boy, after a two-day trial.

Mid-2012 - CELTA course to teach English in Saudi Arabia

Emazi is believed to have enrolled in a course to qualify in teaching English as a foreign language, which he passed, and then applied with two friends to colleges in Saudi Arabia, where he did not gain a place. Two friends who studied alongside him obtained jobs in Saudi.

Late 2012/ Early 2013 - Change of name and attempt to visit Kuwait

Emazi's father is said to have suggested that he change his name in order to have fewer problems travelling, so his name was changed by deed poll to Mohammed al-Ayan. Though he received a new passport, he was again stopped by the security services when he attempted to travel to Kuwait.

Early 2013 - Family reports him missing

Emwazi was reported missing by his family after he failed to return home for three days. He later contacted his family to tell them he was helping refugees in Turkey who were fleeing violence in Syria.

Police visited the home four months later, in late Spring, and told his family that they believed he had travelled to Syria, something his father reportedly refused to accept.

Late 2013 - Guarding hostages in a prison in Idlib, Syria

During 2013 a number of hostages were captured by Islamic State, or obtained via other militant groups, including British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, British journalist John Cantlie, and US aidworkers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

The Washington Post reported that a former hostage said Emwazi was one of a group of Islamic State militants guardian Western captives in a facility nicknamed "the box".

The guards were nicknamed 'The Beatles', and Emwazi was known as "John" although it was "George" who was the ringleader. Emwazi is said to have waterboarded four Western hostages.

james foley

American journalist James Foley

Early 2014 - Guarding hostages in a prison in Raqqa, Islamic State's de-facto capital and contact with CAGE

A hostage told WaPo they were visited frequently by 'The Beatles' while they were held in Raqqa, and commented that their status within the militia appeared to have increased.

Asim Qureshi, research director at the rights group, CAGE sent an email to Emwazi at this time:

“I was wondering if you could send me your number. Inshallah, it will be good to catch up.”

He received no response.

August 2014 - the murder of James Foley

Global Post's James Foley is seen gruesomely beheaded by a black-masked man now believed to be Emwazi. He addressed the camera, speaking in a London accent, and threatened the life of US journalist Steven Sotloff.

September 2014 - the murders of Steven Sotloff and David Haines

'jihad John', as he has come to be known by the press, appears in two further videos, featuring the murder of TIME journalist Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.

October 2014 - the murder of Alan Henning

Despite a concerted campaign and condemnation by even some of the most hardline conservative Muslims, aid worker and former cab driver Alan Henning is killed in a video also featuring 'Jihad John'.

November 2014 - the death of Peter Kassig

'Jihad John' is seen in a video as one of many cutting the heads of a line of Syrian soldiers, and later seen with the head of aid worker Peter Kassig, intimating he had murdered him. The video was strikingly different, and did not contain an address to camera by Kassig, unlike in prior videos. Kassig is never seen alive, prompting speculation that his death may not have gone to plan.

January 2015 - the murder of Kenji Goto

In the midst of protracted negotiations to release Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasabeh (later burned alive in a cage), Jihad John is seen for the final time, at the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

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A broadcast Journalist works outside the home where Islamic State militant Mohammed Emwazi, popularly known as Jihadi John, is believed to have once lived

February 2015 - the outing of Mohammed Emwazi

Scotland Yard and Prime Minister David Cameron refuse to confirm he is the correct man.

But Westminster University confirm Emwazi was a student of theirs, and say they are "shocked and sickened".

Police visit the home of Emwazi's family, and his siblings delete all their social media profiles.

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