Islamic State masked executioner “Jihadi John” has been allegedly identified as a Kuwait-born computer programmer from West London, according to reports in US media.
Mohammed Emwazi, 26, is the man responsible for the killing of several Western hostages, The Washington Post and The New York Times claim, citing his friends, a British security official, and a leading UK think-tank.
The masked man, who can be heard speaking with a British accent, is seen in various Islamic State videos, beheading US journalists and British aid workers.
“I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” one of Emwazi’s ‘close friends’ said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“He was like a brother to me. . . . I am sure it is him.”
According to The New York Times, British and and United States security officials identified Emwazi “some time ago” but decided not to release his name.
CAGE, a UK think-tank and civil rights group, said it had been contact with Emwazi in recent years over his alleged harassment by British security services.
CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said while he was not absolutely sure, he felt “fairly certain” Emwazi was “Jihadi John”.
“There was an extremely strong resemblance,” Mr Qureshi said.
“This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person.”
On Thursday, CAGE published an article on the life of Emwazi, saying he was radicalised and alienated after being mistreated by the British security services, who tried to recruit him in 2009.
“Mohammed Emwazi first came to CAGE in 2009 after being detained, interrogated and recruited by Mi5 on what was meant to be a safari holiday to Tanzania,” the article read.
“Thereafter, the harassment continued and intensified which led to him losing two fiancées, his job and new life in Kuwait.”
Mr Emwazi, fluent in both English and Arabic, graduated from the University of Westminster with a degree in computer programming in 2009, and hoped to build a “successful career” and “settle down” in an Arab country.
By 2010, Emwazi said he felt “like a prisoner” in London after officials refused his entry to Kuwait several times, where he had a job and fiancee waiting.
In 2013, he left London and travelled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group.
Mr Qureshi said Emwazi had “desperately wanted to use the system to change his situation, but the system ultimately rejected him”.
London’s Metropolitan Police dismissed the fresh allegations as “speculation” and said it was “not going to confirm his identity”.
“We are not going to confirm the identity of anyone at this stage or give an update on the progress of this live counterterrorism investigation,” the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command told The New York Times.
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London said it believed the identity to be accurate.
The unmasking would deal a “psychological blow” to the IS group, said senior research fellow at the centre, Shiraz Maher.
“They’ll feel somewhat deflated that someone they wanted to preserve and protect as an asset has been outed in this way but it won’t change anything day to day,” Mr Maher added.
Jihadi John has been ‘named’ before as an British-Egyptian amateur rapper known as Lyricist Jinn, also from West London.