Jihadi John, the masked star of the Islamic State's beheading videos, has been identified as a Kuwaiti-born British man named Mohammed Emwazi.
The Washington Post reported
that Emwazi, mid-20s, was born in Kuwait to a wealthy family, grew up in West London, and received a degree in computer programming from the University of Westminster.
The Post confirmed his identity through at least two sources: a close friend of Emwazi's and UK-based human rights group CAGE, which had contact with the Londoner from 2010 to 2012.
"I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John," said the friend who identified him in an interview. "He was like a brother to me. . . . I am sure it is him."
After being presented with the theory that Jihadi John was in fact Emwazi, Asim Qureshi, research director at CAGE, watched the videos, and said he agreed.
"There was an extremely strong resemblance," he said. "This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person."
CAGE said it had contact with Emwazi after he ran into a number of travel blockades.
Shortly after graduating, Emwazi and two friends, a German convert to Islam, Omar, and another man, Abu Talib, had planned to travel to Eastern Africa in May 2009 — allegedly for a safari trip.
After landing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, the three were detained for reasons unclear. Emwazi soon flew to Amsterdam, and eventually ended up back in the UK.
Emwazi spoke to CAGE after the incident.
In emails to Qureshi, he claimed that while he was in Amsterdam he was approached by an agent from Britain's MI5 domestic security agency, and accused of trying to reach Somalia, where al-Qaeda-allied militant group al-Shabab operates. Emwazi said he denied the accusation, and claimed that MI5 was trying to recruit him.
"Mohammed was quite incensed by his treatment, that he had been very unfairly treated," Qureshi said.
After things had settled down, Emwazi claimed in the emails that he had landed a computer programming job in Kuwait. He traveled to and from Kuwait multiple times, but was detained in June 2010 by British counterterrorism officials en route back to his new life in Kuwait.
"I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started," he wrote in a June 2010 e-mail to Qureshi. "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."
It is unclear how or exactly when Emwazi eventually made his way to Syria.
Earlier this month, U.S. House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Pete King said that western intelligence outfits should release the identity of Jihadi John if they know who it is.
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