A Pentagon official said late Thursday it targeted and likely killed ISIS executioner and British national Mohamed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” in Raqqa, Syria. Emwazi was seen in videos depicting the beheading of hostages held by ISIS.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed the airstrike targeted the infamous Islamic militant and executioner, but Fox News reported a senior U.S. military official said “we are 99 percent sure we got him.” The Pentagon is still working to confirm the strike was successful, though PPD can confirm it was a drone that was used in the airstrike, which was tracking Emwazi for the vast majority of the day on Thursday as he met with fellow Islamists in the ISIS stronghold.
The source told Fox that the strike was ordered shortly after Emwazi came out of a building in Raqqa, when he was “ID’d and engaged.”
Emwazi beheaded American journalists Steve Sotloff and James Foley, as well as American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning. He also executed and beheaded Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and a number of other hostages using a large knife in the videos where he appeared as a masked militant in black and speaking in a British accent.
Emwazi was identified as “Jihadi John” last February, although a lawyer who once represented Emwazi’s father told reporters that there was no evidence supporting the accusation. Experts and others later confirmed the identification.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he will make a statement later Friday. The statement said, “We have been working hand in glove with the Americans to defeat ISIL and to hunt down those murdering hostages. The Prime Minister has said before that tracking down these brutal murderers was a top priority.”
Emwazi was born in Kuwait and spent part of his childhood in the poor Taima area of Jahra before moving to Britain while still 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 before leaving for Syria in 2013. The woman who had been the principal at London’s Quintin Kynaston Academy told the BBC earlier this year that Emwazi had been quiet and “reasonably hard-working.”
Officials said Britain’s intelligence community had Emwazi on its list of potential terror suspects for years but was unable to prevent him from traveling to Syria. However, was reportedly stopped at the airport in Dar-es-Salaam and was refused entry into Tanzania six years ago because he was drunk and abusive.
Mathias Chikawe, Tanzania’s home affairs minister, said Emwazi and two friends were turned away in 2009 because they were “very drunk.”
“They were refused entry because they disembarked from the plane very drunk,” Mr Chikawe said. “They were insulting our immigration staff and other people.”
At the time, he was on the intel communities’ radar because of his connection to investigations into acts of terrorism in Somalia.
The beheading of Foley, 40, of Rochester, New Hampshire was released on Aug. 19, 2014. It preceded the release of videos the following month showing the beheadings of Sotloff and Haines and, then in October, Mr. Henning.