The infamous Islamic State militant known by his criminal alias “Jihadi John” has been reportedly killed in a US drone strike in Syria. The strike targeted the Islamic State militant in the self-proclaimed caliphate’s capital, Raqqa. The Pentagon has yet to confirm the killing.
“We are assessing the results of tonight’s operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.
Although Jihadi John, who has been identified as British citizen Muhammad Emwazi, is not the leader of the militant group, he is a significant figure among ISIS who rose to infamy after taking Western journalists and other officials hostage and subsequently beheading them. He captured the media spotlight last year when he beheaded American journalist James Foley.
If Emwazi’s death is confirmed, it will be a huge psychological blow to the Islamic State, where he and his British companions have gained a prominent stature for torture and beheadings.
Emwazi and his British accomplices have been known as “the Beatles” for their British accent. It is also expected that one or two other members of the Beatles have also been killed in the drone strike. The strike targeted a truck around the vicinity of Raqqa where Emwazi was allegedly meeting his Beatles companions. However, the Pentagon is still confirming the number killed and their identities.
Emwazi was born in Kuwait but was raised in London where he studied computer engineering and graduated from the University of Westminster. After graduation, he and his friends came to Africa for a safari in Tanzania, but he was detained there and deported to Amsterdam, where he claims he was questioned by MI5. He started working for a computer company in Kuwait but continued his visits to London.
In 2010, he was again detained in London and was restricted from leaving England. There is no knowledge of his movements after that, except that in 2012, he arrived in Syria and joined the Islamic radical group ISIS.
Over the past three years, he has gained a prominent position in ISIS for beheading Westerners. He has killed American journalist Steven Sotloff, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, among several others.
American intelligence has been seeking the whereabouts of Emwazi since Foley’s death at his hands, and if confirmed, his death will strike serious damage to ISIS, where he has become an influential figure even though he is not its leader. The self-proclaimed caliph of the ISIS caliphate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still at large.
The US has recently increased its level of military engagement in Syria and Iraq to subdue the militancy, especially ISIS, who occupy vast areas in western Syria and eastern Iraq. Isolated campaigns against ISIS are underway, and US President Barack Obama has announced deployment of US Special Force troops on the ground in Syria to assist the allied forces.
Meanwhile, the dreaded Russian Special Forces group known as the Spetsnaz has reportedly arrived in Syria. Spetsnaz is expected to inflict a lot of damage to ISIS and its overall infrastructure in a bid to supplement Russian airstrikes that have, so far, given the terror group many sleepless nights.