British authorities have reportedly identified the Islamic State (IS) fighter who brutally murdered American journalist James Foley in Iraq last week.
The man, who had a British accent in a video of the killing which was shared globally, is believed to be Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, from London, according to various reports in the UK media.
An article in The Sunday Times said Bary left his family home in Maida Vale, west London, last year, and had recently tweeted a picture of himself holding up a severed head.
The Mail on Sunday reported that an elite UK fighting force had been deployed in Iraq to help find Bary, who is understood to go by the name ‘Jihad John’. The report said soldiers were hunting for other UK citizens who were fighting for the IS and would track Bary by questioning captured jihadis.
A source linked to the SAS told the newspaper: “It is possible to identify British jihadis on the battlefield by intercepting their radio messages. When they’re captured by the Iraqis or Kurds we’ll take a close interest in their questioning.”
Before leaving for the Middle East, Bary, 24, was reportedly known as ‘L Jinny’ or ‘Lyricist Jinn’ and performed as a rapper. His music is believed to have been played on BBC Radio in 2012 and his lyrics reference Islam, drug use and the threat of his family being deported from the UK back to Egypt. (Watch one of his music videos below.)
It is also believed that Bary’s Egyptian-born father, who had been closely aligned with Osama bin Laden, is awaiting terrorism charges in the United States.
Earlier, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the killing of US journalist James Foley by a man speaking with an English accent was an “utter betrayal of our country”.
Hammond’s comments came amid growing concern in London that British passport holders who travel to fight in Iraq and Syria could return to commit attacks on British soil.
The IS jihadist group posted a video of Foley’s killing online last Tuesday.
In it, a masked militant with a London accent executed the journalist, who had been missing since his capture in Syria in 2012.
The Sunday Times newspaper, citing unnamed senior government sources, reported that intelligence services MI5 and MI6 have identified the fighter suspected of killing Foley.
“It is horrifying to think that the perpetrator of this heinous act could have been brought up in Britain,” Hammond wrote in an article published in this week’s Sunday Times.
“It is an utter betrayal of our country, our values and everything the British people stand for.”
Hammond also warned that IS was “turning a swathe of Iraq and Syria into a terrorist state as a base for launching attacks on the West.”
He added: “Unless they are stopped, sooner or later they will seek to strike us on British soil.”
Britain has ruled out sending ground troops into Iraq to fight the jihadists.
But it is taking steps including sending equipment to Kurdish peshmerga fighters to help combat them, as well as offering humanitarian assistance.
The government is under pressure at home to step up action to prevent the radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain, some of whom then travel abroad to fight.
More than 500 Britons have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight with jihadists in the last few years, according to the intelligence services.
Home Secretary Theresa May indicated Saturday that she could invoke fresh powers to combat radicalisation.
But the main opposition Labour Party has accused the government of not moving quickly enough or providing enough specifics on what it intends to do.