‘Jihadi John’: US air strike targets Islamic State militant in Syria
US forces have carried out an air strike targeting the Islamic State group militant “Jihadi John”, with a “high degree of certainty” he was hit.
Mohammed Emwazi, the Kuwaiti-born British militant, appeared in videos of the beheadings of Western hostages.
It is believed there was at least one other person in the vehicle targeted in the attack near Raqqa, in Syria.
The UK government said it was “working hand in glove with the Americans” to “hunt down those murdering hostages”.
A US official told the BBC Emwazi had been “tracked carefully over a period of time”.
Another senior military source said there was a “high degree of certainty” he had been killed, while another source said: “It was a great hit.”
A drone was used in the attack, according to a US official quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
A formal statement from the Pentagon stopped short of asserting that Emwazi had definitely been killed, adding that it was assessing the operation.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to make a statement later on Friday.
“The prime minister has said before that tracking down these brutal murderers was a top priority,” a spokesperson said.
by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent
As the militant who sadistically murdered Western aid workers and journalists on camera, Mohammed Emwazi became a top target for US and British intelligence agencies, even though he is thought to have played no military role within Islamic State.
After his identity was revealed in February, Emwazi largely stayed out of sight, taking particular care not to leave a digital trail to his whereabouts.
But GCHQ, the UK government’s communications headquarters, has expended enormous efforts to intercept and decipher any encrypted messages that might reveal his location or those of his associates.
Emwazi is believed to have travelled to Syria in 2013 and later joined IS militants.
He first appeared in a video in August last year, when footage was posted online showing the murder of US journalist James Foley.
He was later pictured in the videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines and UK taxi driver Alan Henning, as well as American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.
He was also seen apparently killing a Syrian soldier during a mass beheading of Syrian troops.
In each of the videos, the militant appeared dressed in a black robe with a black balaclava covering his face.
Initially dubbed “Jihadi John” by the media, he was subsequently named as Emwazi, from west London, in February.
- 1988: Born in Kuwait, moves to UK in 1994
- 2009: Completes computing degree at University of Westminster
- 2013: Tries to travel to Kuwait but is stopped. Disappears. Parents report him missing. Police tell family four months later he has entered Syria
Source: Cage, London-based campaign group
Earlier this year, details emerged about how Emwazi made a number of journeys abroad before he left for Syria in 2013.
They included a trip to Tanzania in August 2009, when he is believed to have first became known to security services in the UK.
His naming this year led to a row over the cause of his radicalisation, with British advocacy group Cage suggesting that contact with MI5 may have contributed to it.
However, Downing Street said that suggestion was “completely reprehensible”, with Mr Cameron defending the UK’s security services.
Civil war erupted in Syria four years ago, and now President Bashar al-Assad’s government, IS, an array of Syrian rebels and Kurdish fighters all hold territory. Millions have been displaced and more than 250,000 people killed as a result of the fighting.
IS aims to establish a caliphate over the entire Muslim world, a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law, or Sharia. It already hold control of swathes of land in Syria and Iraq.
The militant group said it was behind twin suicide bombings in the Lebanese capital Beirut that killed at least 41 people on Thursday.
Kurdish forces have meanwhile entered the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar captured by IS last year, while the Iraqi army says it has begun an offensive to retake the key western city of Ramadi.
At least 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq, British police say.
Security analyst Charlie Winter said that if Emwazi’s death was confirmed, it could affect those wanting to join Islamic State “out of a sense of adventure”.
He added: “They want to go and find a collective group where they can be part of something bigger. But they also don’t want to die.”
Mohammed Emwazi’s movements before heading to Syria
- 1. Aug 2009, refused entry to Tanzania: travels to Tanzania with two friends, but is refused entry at Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian police have denied Emwazi’s name is on their database of suspected foreign criminals detained and deported in 2009, as he had claimed. Emwazi and his friends are put on flight to Amsterdam, where they are questioned. They return to Dover and are questioned again.
- 2. Sept 2009, travels to Kuwait for work: leaves the UK for Kuwait for work.
- 3. May/June 2010, returns to UK for holiday: he returns to the UK for an eight-day visit.
- 4. July 2010, refused re-entry to Kuwait: Emwazi returns to the UK once more for a couple of days. He is stopped at Heathrow on his return to Kuwait and told he cannot travel as his visa has expired.
- 5. 2013, travels to Syria: Emwazi attempts to travel to Kuwait but is stopped and questioned. Three days later, he heads abroad. Police later inform his family he has travelled to Syria.
Video shows ‘Jihadi John’ as a teenager
Emwazi wearing a mask in a video of a killing
Hear the voice of ‘Jihadi John’ before ISIS
(1988-08-17) 17 August 1988 
Al Jahra, Kuwait
|Education||BSc (lower second-class honours) in Information Systems with Business Management from the University of Westminster (2009)|
|Known for||Involvement in multiple beheadings|
|Allegiance||Al-Nusra Front, then
|Years of service||2013–present|
Jihadi John Face Revealed in ISIS Video
Mohammed Emwazi (born Muhammad Jassim Abdulkarim Olayan al-Dhafiri, 17 August 1988) is a Kuwaiti-British man who is thought to be the person seen in several videos produced by the Islamic extremist group ISIL showing the beheadings of a number of captives in 2014 and 2015. A group of his hostages nicknamed him “Jihadi John” since he was part of a four-person terrorist cell with British accents whom they called “The Beatles”.
‘Jihadi John’ Now the Most Wanted Man In the World
Emwazi was born Muhammad Jassim Abdulkarim Olayan al-Dhafiri on 17 August 1988 in Kuwait to Jassem and Ghaneyah. The family, who were Bedoon of Iraqi origin, moved to the United Kingdom in 1994 when he was six. They settled in inner west London, moving between several properties in Maida Vale, later living in St John’s Wood and finally in Queen’s Park. Emwazi attended St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school, and later Quintin Kynaston School.
In 2006 he went to the University of Westminster, studying Information Systems with Business Management. He secured a lower second-class BSc (Hons) on graduation three years later. At age 21, he worked as a salesman at an IT company in Kuwait and was considered by his boss as the best employee the company ever had.
Emwazi was given the nickname “John” by a group of his hostages. The hostages said that he was part of a terrorist cell they called “The Beatles“, and that he guarded Western hostages while handling communications with their families. The nickname refers to John Lennon of the Beatles, and other members of the cell are known as “George”, “Paul”, and “Ringo”, in reference to the other Beatles. The cell members all had British accents. The nicknames “Jihadi John”, “Jailer John” and “John the Beatle” were created by the press.
Ringo Starr expressed his disgust at the use of his former band’s name in this context, saying: “It’s bullshit. What they are doing out there is against everything the Beatles stood for,” saying that the Beatles had stood for peace and opposed violence.
Jihadi John Apologizes to His Family – but for Beheading Hostages
Following are reported victims of Jihadi John.
In a video uploaded to YouTube on 19 August 2014, Foley read a prepared statement criticizing the United States, the recent airstrikes in Iraq, and his brother who serves in the United States Air Force. Emwazi, wearing a mask, also read a prepared statement in which he criticized America and President Barack Obama and made demands to cease the 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq. The masked man then beheaded Foley off-camera, after which he threatened to behead Steven Sotloff if his demands were not met. The FBI and United States National Security Council confirmed that the video, which included footage of Foley’s beheaded corpse, was genuine.
On 2 September 2014, a video was released reportedly showing American journalist Steven Sotloff‘s beheading by Emwazi. The White House confirmed the video’s authenticity.
On 13 September 2014, a video, directed at British Prime Minister David Cameron, was released, showing British hostage aid worker David Haines being beheaded by Emwazi.
On 3 October 2014, a video released by ISIS showing Emwazi beheading British aid worker Alan Henning. Henning, a taxi driver from Salford, Greater Manchester, had volunteered to deliver aid to Syria when he was kidnapped in Ad Dana, an area held by ISIS, on 27 December 2013.
On 16 November 2014 a video was posted by ISIS of Emwazi standing over a severed head, which the White House confirmed was that of Peter Kassig. Kassig’s actual beheading was not shown, and unlike earlier hostage beheading videos he did not make a statement.
The video that ended with a shot of Kassig’s severed head showed the beheadings of 21 Syrian soldiers in gruesome detail, by a group led by a masked Emwazi. It was said by the BBC that, unlike previous videos, this one shows the faces of many of the militants, indicates the location as being Dabiq in Aleppo Province, and that this video “revels in gore.” Unlike previous videos that cut away without showing the killing, Emwazi is shown beheading a victim.
Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto
Haruna Yukawa, age 42, was captured sometime before August 2014. Kenji Goto, age 47, was captured sometime in October 2014 while trying to rescue Yukawa. In January 2015, they were threatened to be killed unless the Japanese government paid a ransom of $200 million. Haruna was beheaded on 24 January, and Kenji on 31 January 2015.
It was claimed in August 2014 that ISIS held more than 20 hostages. Many hostage families chose not to reveal their relatives’ names in order to avoid drawing attention to them and compromising their safety. All or nearly all of the Europeans were ransomed by their countries. However, laws in the US and the UK prohibit payment of ransoms.
Cantlie is a British citizen held hostage who has appeared in a series of ISIL videos. He was kidnapped along with James Foley on 22 November 2012.
Analysis of videos
Officially the FBI and United States National Security Council confirmed that the James Foley video, which ended with footage of a beheaded corpse, was genuine. David Cameron and the British Foreign Office also confirmed the authenticity of the video showing the death of David Haines.
The videos were produced and distributed by Al Hayat Media Center, a media outlet of ISIS that is under the authority of the ISIS’s official propaganda arm, the Al-Itisam Establishment for Media Production, that targets specifically Western and non-Arabic speaking audiences.
An unnamed forensics expert commissioned by The Times to look at the James Foley video said “I think it has been staged. My feeling is that the murder may have happened after the camera was stopped.” The Times concluded that “No one is questioning that the photojournalist James Foley was beheaded, but camera trickery and slick post-production techniques appear to have been used.” Two unnamed video specialists in the International Business Times of Australia claimed that portions of the video appeared to be staged and edited. Dr. James Alvarez, a British-American hostage negotiator, also claimed the James Foley video was “expertly staged”, with the use of two separate cameras and a clip-on microphone attached to Foley’s orange jumpsuit. Jeff Smith, Associate Director of the CU Denver National Center for Media Forensics, said “What’s most interesting is that the actual beheading that takes place in the videos, both of them are staged.”
British analyst Eliot Higgins (Brown Moses) published photographic and video forensic evidence suggesting that the James Foley video was taken at a spot in the hills south of the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Identification and manhunt
‘Jihadi John’ became the subject of a manhunt by the FBI, MI5, and Scotland Yard. In his videos, “Jihadi John” concealed his identity by covering himself from head to toe in black, except for tan desert boots, with a mask that left only his eyes visible. Despite this, several facts about ‘Jihadi John’ could be ascertained from both videos. He spoke with an apparent London or southern England accent and appeared to have a skin tone consistent with African or South Asian descent. In both videos, he was seen to sport a pistol in a leather shoulder holster under his left shoulder, typical of right-handed people, but his actions in the videos suggest he is left-handed.
Other factors that could have led to his identification were his height, general physique, the pattern of veins on the back of his hands, his voice and clothes. A team of analysts might use the topography of the landscape in the video in an attempt to identify the location. On 24 August 2014, the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, said that Britain was very close to identifying ‘Jihadi John’ using sophisticated voice recognition technology, but when pressed, refused to disclose any other details.
On 20 September 2014, the United States Senate approved a $10 million reward for information that led to the capture of anyone involved in the murders of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Cawthorne Haines, which includes ‘Jihadi John’. On November 20, the bill, extending the potential scope of the reward program to any American kidnapped and murdered by a “foreign terrorist organization” and limiting the reward to a maximum of $5 million, was referred to the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
On 14 September British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that the identity of ‘Jihadi John’ was known but had yet to be revealed.
On 25 September, FBI Director James Comey told reporters that they had identified the suspect, but did not give information regarding the man’s identity or nationality. “I believe that we have identified him. I’m not going to tell you who I believe it is,” Comey stated. Michael Ryan, an author and scholar from the Middle East Institute speculated “Maybe 98 percent of 95 percent sure is not sure enough to put a man’s name out.”
In August 2014, The Sunday Times reported that Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary (“L Jinny”), 23, a hip-hop musician from West London had “emerged as a key suspect” in the investigation. Other sources also stated that Abu Hussain Al-Britani, 20, a computer hacker from Birmingham and Abu Abdullah al-Britani, in his 20s from Portsmouth, were suspects.
On 26 February 2015, The Washington Post identified the perpetrator as Mohammed Emwazi, a British man then in his mid-20s who was born in Kuwait and grew up in west London. The Washington Post investigation was undertaken by Souad Mekhennet and Alan Goldman.
Emwazi was born to Iraqi parents who moved to neighboring Kuwait from Iraq. When the Kuwaiti government rejected their application for citizenship, in 1994 they moved to Iraq and then on to Britain. According to his student card from the University of Westminster, Emwazi was born on 17 August 1988.
Scotland Yard and 10 Downing Street declined to comment on the reports. The Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police Service released a statement saying: “We are not going to confirm the identity of anyone at this stage or give an update on the progress of this live counter-terrorism investigation.” The security services in the US and UK are believed to have known the identity of ‘Jihadi John’ since September 2014, but have not revealed the name for operational security reasons.
In an interview with The Washington Post, one of Emwazi’s close friends said: “I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John. He was like a brother to me. … I am sure it is him.” Asim Qureshi, research director at the advocacy group CAGE, who had been in contact with Emwazi before he left for Syria, also identified the man in the videos as Emwazi, stating: “There was an extremely strong resemblance. This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person.” U.S. officials declined to comment for the Washington Post report, and Emwazi’s family declined a request for an interview. Qureshi said that Emwazi was “extremely kind, gentle and soft-spoken, the most humble young person I knew”.
The BBC stated that Emwazi is believed to be “an associate of a former UK control order suspect … who travelled to Somalia in 2006 and is allegedly linked to a facilitation and funding network for Somali militant group al-Shabab.” He reportedly prayed on occasion at a mosque in Greenwich. He graduated with a degree in Information Systems with Business Management from the University of Westminster (2009). His final address in the UK before he went abroad was in the Queen’s Park area of north-west London.
The Post reported interviews with Emwazi’s friends indicating that Emwazi was radicalized after a planned safari to Tanzania following his graduation. According to the interviews, Emwazi and two friends, a German convert to Islam named Omar and another man, Abu Talib, never made the safari. Rather, upon landing in Dar es Salaam in May 2009, the three were detained, held overnight by police, and eventually deported. In May 2010, The Independent reported on the episode, identifying Emwazi as Muhammad ibn Muazzam. According to e-mails sent by Emwazi to Qureshi and that were provided to the Post, after leaving Tanzania, Emwazi flew to Amsterdam, where he claimed that an MI5 officer accused him of attempting to go to Somalia, where al-Shabab operates. Emwazi denied attempting to reach Somalia, but a former hostage told the Post that “Jihadi John was obsessed with Somalia” and forced captives to watch videos about al-Shabab. Tanzanian officials have denied that they detained and deported Emwazi at the request of MI5, saying instead that he had been refused entry for being drunk and abusive.
Later, Emwazi and his friends were permitted to return to Britain, where Emwazi met with Qureshi in late 2009. The Post quoted Qureshi as saying that Emwazi was “incensed” at the way he had been treated. Emwazi moved to Kuwait shortly afterward, where (according to emails he wrote to Qureshi), he worked for a computer company. Emwazi returned to London twice, however, and, on the second visit, he made plans to wed a woman in Kuwait.
In June 2010, Emwazi was detained by counter-terrorism officials in Britain, who searched and fingerprinted him, and blocked him from returning to Kuwait. In an email four months later to Qureshi, Emwazi expressed sympathy for Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative who had just been sentenced in U.S. federal court for assault and attempted murder. Qureshi said he last heard from Emwazi when Emwazi sought advice from him in January 2012. Close friends of Emwazi interviewed by the Post said that he was “desperate to leave the country” and one friend stated that Emwazi unsuccessfully tried to travel to Saudi Arabia to teach English in 2012. Sometime after January 2012, Emwazi traveled to Syria, where he apparently contacted his family and at least one of his friends.
In March 2015, following media reports that his mother had recognised Jihadi John’s voice as her son’s, his father denied that this had happened or that Emwazi was Jihadi John.
US President Barack Obama condemned the actions of ‘Jihadi John’ and vowed punishment for all the militants responsible behind the videotaped beheadings. Secretary of State John Kerry also called ‘Jihadi John’ a “coward behind a mask” and, echoing Obama, stated that all those responsible would be held accountable by the United States. British officials have also reiterated their commitment to capturing ‘Jihadi John’. Admiral Alan West, a former UK Minister for Security and Counter-terrorism, said that he is a “dead man walking” who will be “hunted down” like Osama bin Laden. David Cameron also stated that he was absolutely certain that Jihadi John would “one way or another, face justice”, he also condemned the actions. UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, and Secretary General of Interpol Ronald Noble also stated that Jihadi John should be brought to justice.
Reacting to the naming of Emwazi by the media, a spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff told the BBC that they wanted to see him behind bars. Bethany Haines, daughter of David, said “It’s a good step but I think all the families will feel closure and relief once there’s a bullet between his eyes.”
Lord Carlisle, a former independent reviewer of UK anti-terror laws, said, “Had control orders been in place, in my view there is a realistic prospect that Mohammed Emwazi, and at least two of his associates, would have been the subject of control orders with a compulsory relocation.”
In reaction to the revelation, Emwazi’s father, Jassem, has said that he is ashamed of his son. Previously, when he learned from his son that he was going to Syria “for jihad“, Jassem had told him that he hoped he would be killed. But the day after the naming he issued a statement denying that his son was Jihadi John. An unidentified cousin issued a statement which said, “We hate him. We hope he will be killed soon. This will be good news for our family.”
On 8 March 2015, according to The Sunday Times, Emwazi apologised to his family for “problems and trouble the revelation of his identity has caused” them. The message was conveyed via an unspecified third party.
Marked out for Death:
Original story by The Daily Mail
- Hostage reveals chilling moment Jihadi John drew sword on face of captive to brand him for beheading
- Marc Marginedas, 46, was held by ISIS militants for six months last year
- He says he was guarded by three men who spoke with British accents
- Group nicknamed The Beatles because they regularly ‘beat’ prisoners
- Jihadi John – later identified as Mohammed Emwazi – was the gang leader
- He would draw on the prisoners heads with a red pen to mark out who he next planned to brutally execute in a filmed beheading
- When his pencil was blunt he would scratch a cross into next victim’s head
Islamic State torturer-in-chief Jihadi John scratched the outline of a sword on the face of one of his victims in order to signify that he was to be beheaded, according to an account by a hostage held by the terrorist group. Spanish journalist Marc Marginedas, 46, who was released a year ago, says he and 18 other hostages were guarded by three terrorists, who all spoke with British accents.
And he reveals that they named them the ‘Beatles’ because they liked ‘beating’ people, not simply because they were British.
The leader of the group, who came to be known as Jihadi John and has since been identified as Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, went on to behead five hostages. The hostages were eventually taken to a prison in Raqqa, northern Syria, where the ‘Beatles’ had a room next to the prisoners, separated only by a broken glass door and a curtain. Mr Marginedas said the three masked ‘Beatles’ liked to burst into their cell shouting and threatening the prisoners, and always ended up ‘beating’ at least one of the hostages.
Prisoner: Marc Marginedas, a seasoned war reporter – was held for six months by Islamic State terrorists
On one occasion he recalls how Jihadi John carried out a savage beating of one of the hostages who had been told to approach the door.
Recalls Mr Marginedas: ‘Once in position, [Jihadi John] took a red pen and began to draw a sword on the [unnamed] hostage’s face, letting him know, in this macabre he would end his days in Syria, beheaded.’
‘The pen tip broke before he finished the sketch, but Jihadi John wanted to finish his work with the rest of sharpened pencil, already cut almost like a knife, tearing the skin of the cheek with a vengeance, and leaving for the following days a visible wound in the face, outlined by the scar.’
Mr Marginedas also claims that the Beatles were only put in charge of the prisoners because Islamic State commanders couldn’t spare hardened fighters from the battlefield.
And he believes this may have been a source of a grievance to them which only served to fuel their cruelty.
Mr Marginedas was captured on the 4th of September 2013 by rebel jihadists, close to the city of Hama, in Western Syria. He had entered the country three days before, through Turkey; accompanied by members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). According to Mr Marginedas, Jihadi John was a ‘manic-depressive’, similar to that of a serial killer so often depicted in films
Another Spanish journalist, released shortly after Mr Marginedas, has told how the prisoners had to wear orange jumpsuits and had to memorise in Arabic a number written on their back.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Javier Espinosa, described how Emwazi squeezed maximum drama out of the torture and intimidation of the hostages. Espinosa, a journalist for Spanish newspaper El Mundo, said Emwazi liked to carry an antique metre-long sword with a silver handle, of the kind Muslim armies used in the Middle Ages. After enduring a mock execution at the hands of Jihadi John, Mr Espinosa said ‘that encounter confirmed the psychopathic character of my interlocutors.’
Emwazi was among ‘psychotic’ extremists who pillaged the Spaniard’s belongings to put towards a haul of stolen cash apparently so large there were rooms filled with millions of dollars. It was, he continued, one of ‘several episodes of psychological and physical torture, privations and humiliations’ prisoners endured.
Mr Espinosa was snatched with his colleague photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova when the pair were working near the Turkish border in 2013.
Alongside American journalists and aid workers including Britons Alan Henning and David Haines, they were locked in ISIS prisons – as Mr Espinosa describes them as ‘elegant mansions’ and the former government headquarters in Raqqa – across the war-ravaged country for months.
Being woken by the screams of other hostages as they were tortured in their cells was commonplace. On one occasion, the Spaniard notes, a young boy was beaten to a pulp after being caught smoking – a forbidden habit under oppressive Sharia law.
The European and American hostages who disappeared had been either freed or moved, Mr Espinosa claims to have been told. Instead they were being picked off one by own, their deaths showcased to the world in barbaric propaganda videos.
Mr Marginedas recounts an incident in February last year when Jihadi John visited the hostages and claimed that he had been wounded in combat:
‘Once, on a February evening, he appeared in the room and began walking in circles to the silent hostages. He seemed limp, and claimed that he had been wounded in combat during the day.
‘He said “I wonder what you would do to me if you were in my position,” hinting that he was aware of the suffering being imposed on innocent and the desire for revenge that may be raising his performance.’
Mr Marginedas says the jihadists’ evil cruelty is further demonstrated by another episode in which the ‘Beatles’ gave the leftovers of their food to half the starving hostages while the remaining hostages were ordered to watch their fellow prisoners eating. This, he says, was designed to sow bad feeling among the prisoners – which it did, with recriminations against those who had played the Beatles’ game by eating the food.
Mr Marginedas was one of the first of the 19 hostages from 11 different countries to be released by IS. He recalls how Jihadi John first told him the good news: ‘Marcos, Marcos [is the name on my passport], are you ready to go? ‘ , he asked in a quiet, mellow voice.
“Yeah, I replied, instinctively looked up by the surprise news that was giving me and forgetting that when we spoke to the ‘Beatles’ I had to keep my eyes focused on the ground, fearing that we might end up identifying these three masked by eye.
‘”Do not look at the eyes!”, he shouted, lifting his hand.
Former ISIS hostage says ‘Jihadi John’ beat him, forced him to dance Tango
Full Story Foxnews
A Danish photographer who endured months of torture at the hands of Islamic State extremists says the terrorist killer known as “Jihadi John” forced him to stand for days and dance the Tango at a prison in Syria.
Daniel Rye Ottosen, 26– the last ISIS hostage to be released alive last June– revealed details about his experience in captivity in an interview Sunday with Denmark radio network DR.
The identity of “Jihadi John”– the British terrorist infamous for beheading at least 4 hostages—became public last spring. Mohammed Emwazi, 26, was born in Kuwait, raised in London, and graduated from Westminster University before going to Syria in 2013 to fight with ISIS.
He has become the face of several gruesome propaganda videos— wearing a mask and all black, and wielding a knife before decapitating high profile hostages captured by ISIS terrorists.
Ottosen– a freelance photographer from Odense, Denmark —says after being captured, Emwazi forced him into a degrading dance that ended in a brutal beating, Britain’s Telegraph reported Monday.
“‘Do you want to dance?'” he remembers Emwazi asking. “Then he took me up, and we were supposed to dance the Tango together, John and I.”
Days of beatings and torture taught Ottosen and his fellow hostages not to engage with their captors. “At that point, I just looked down at the ground the whole time because I did not want to look at them – if you looked them in the eye you would just get beaten even more.”
“So I had my head down and my arms up and he led me around the prison and then suddenly it just changed and he threw me down and kicked and hit me,” Ottosen said.
“Then they ended by threatening to cut my nose off with side-cutting pliers and such things,” Ottosen added.
Ottosen said that after his arrest he was repeatedly tortured for about two weeks in a cell in Aleppo, as the rebels tried to force him to confess to being a CIA spy.
Emwazi first appeared in an ISIS video in 2014, when he beheaded American freelance journalist James Foley. He later appeared in videos showing the beheadings of American journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
“They were very good at torturing. They were well aware of the where the limits lay,” Ottosen said. The most brutal torture involved being forced to stand for days on end.
“One of the tricks they used with me was to hang me up from the ceiling with my arms over my head and my hands handcuffed, hanging from a chain. I could stand with both of my feet on the ground but they left me there for an entire day,”Ottosen recalled.
The unending torture was so agonizing that when the extremists threatened to extend it for another three days, Ottosen broke down and tried unsuccessfully to take his own life to escape.
“I decided that I didn’t want to be a part of this world anymore,” he told DR. “So I took that chain around my neck and actually secured it with my little finger so that it couldn’t just loosen and then I hopped and tried to take my own life.”
Later, he was held in a children’s hospital with Foley. The two would do exercises in their cells to build strength and morale. “James was not so strong with his motor skills so I taught him to stand on one leg with closed eyes,” he remembers.
“We did some partner exercises where you lean against each other and then stand up. Some very basic things, but something that is difficult when you have no energy and when one’s muscles have basically disappeared.”
Ottosen was released in June last year after his family paid a 1.5 million pounds or $3.2 million to ISIS. Much of the ransom came from a Facebook fundraising campaign mounted by Ottomen’s sister, Anita Rye Ottosen.
The payment has been controversial, as Emwazi in the following months went on to behead Ottoman’s fellow captives. Both the American and British governments forbade the hostages’ families from giving in to ISIS demands.
Ottosen is still working through the psychological and physical trauma he experienced in the clutches of ISIS. He has only recently begun to work again as a photographer, after more than a year of healing. He has recounted his ordeal in a new book being released in Denmark Tuesday.
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