Who was ‘Jihadi John’?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in its latest issue of the Dabiq Magazine, has confirmed that its notorious member and chief “head master,” Jihadi John, also known as Mohammed Jassim Abdulkarim Olayan al-Dhafiri or Mohammed Emwazi, is dead. Reports of his death hit the news last November after US officials reported he had been hit by a drone strike in Syria. This is the first time the terrorist organization has admitted his death, with a two-page article in the magazine. Jihadi John came to prominence when he appeared in a series of videos depicting members of ISIS beheading people in 2014 and 2015. He typically appeared dressed head to toe in black, with a knife and a British accent.

Mohammed Emwazi earned the nickname “John” (in reference to John Lennon) when he and his British friends in the ISIS ranks were nicknamed “the Beatles.” The “Jihadi” was then added by the international media.

Who was Mohammed Emwazi?

Jihadi John was born in Kuwait in 1988 to Jassem and Ghaneyah Emwazi in the town of Al Jahra in Kuwait. He was born in a poor community and this reportedly set the tone for his anger issues. His family, including his younger sister moved to London in 1994 when he was six years old. The family initially lived in different rented apartments before finally settling down in an Edwardian mansion in Maida Vale in 2005. His father ran a taxi firm, a job he used to sponsor his children’s – now five of them – education. At Quintin Kynaston, a local academy he attended, Mohammed Emwazi was known as a “quiet young man, with caring responsibilities outside of school as the oldest of a number of siblings.”  He also had adolescent issues with girls and bullies – like all normal teenage boys, his former Headmaster said. He, however, had to attend anger management classes because he had problems controlling his emotions. He graduated and went on to study Computer Programming at the Westminster University, London, where he was reported to have been radicalized by Muslim extremist groups in the school.

Emwazi’s radicalization

However, his friends note his radicalization began after he went with two friends to Tanzania on a safari in 2009, an alleged cover for a visit to terrorist groups in East Africa. However, on their arrival in Tanzania, they were deported by Tanzanian authorities for being rough and noisy. Emwazi reported he was tortured by the authorities, a claim that was later found to be a lie. He was then detained for questioning on his way back to the UK via Holland by Dutch and then British authorities.

These events prompted the radicalization of the young man. His fianceé terminated their relationship because of his continued association with terrorist networks. He then travelled to Kuwait to search for a job. He spent 3 months in the country as an IT salesman before going back to the UK never to return. His former Boss in Kuwait however described him as “the best employee we’ve ever had.” Soon after, he went off the grid, only to appear in ISIS beheading videos in Syria.

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