Jihadi John, the masked ISIS member shown beheading hostages in several videos put out by the group, has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, who grew up in West London.

Who Is Jihadi John?

Emwazi grew up in a well-off family before studying computer programming in college and receiving a degree. He first traveled to Syria around 2012 and subsequently joined the Islamic State. Asim Qureshi, a research director at the rights group CAGE, had known Emwazi before he left for Syria and identified him in an interview with The Washington Post.

“I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John. He was like a brother to me. . . . I am sure it is him,” Asim Quershi said. “There was an extremely strong resemblance. This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person.”

Former friends of Emwazi believe that he was radicalized following an attempted safari trip in Tanzania after he graduated from the University of Westmister. Emwazi, along with two friends, was detained by police and held overnight in Dar es Salaam and was eventually deported. According to emails sent to Quershi from Emwazi, he was accused of trying to reach militant group al-Shabab in Somalia – which he claimed was false.

“Mohammed was quite incensed by his treatment, that he had been very unfairly treated,” Qureshi said.

Emwazi eventually moved to Kuwait, his birthplace, where he got a job and met a woman whom he wished to marry. However, on a brief trip back to London, he was detained by British counterterrorism officials, who allegedly fingerprinted him, searched his belongings and prevented him from flying back to Kuwait.

“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” Emwazi wrote to Qureshi around the time of the incident. But now I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London. A person imprisoned & controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace & country, Kuwait.”

In the last communication Emwazi had with Quereshi in January 2012, Quereshi sensed, “This is a young man who was ready to exhaust every single kind of avenue within the machinery of the state to bring a change for his personal situation. “[He felt] actions were taken to criminalize him and he had no way to do something against these actions.”

It is believed that Emwazi “Jihadi John” was a part of a trio of men who guarded Western captives at an Idlib, Syria prison in 2012. By 2014, the trio is believed to have moved up in the ranks of ISIS, guarding the Western hostages in the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa.

As of yet, no official report has identified Jihadi John, but the British Embassy in Washington has said through a spokesperson that justice will be carried out to those responsible for the deaths of hostages. “Our prime minister has been clear that we want all those who have committed murder on behalf of ISIL to face justice for the appalling acts carried out,” the spokeswoman said. “There is an ongoing police investigation into the murder of hostages by ISIL in Syria. It is not appropriate for the government to comment on any part of it while this continues.”

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