14 November 2015

‘IS lead executioner was serious threat to the world’

November 14, 2015

British Prime Minister Cameron defends decision to target barbaric murderer ‘Jihadi John’, says it was an act of self-defence and the right thing to do

Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said on Friday that they did not yet know the outcome of an air strike the U.S. military launched on Thursday to kill Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State’s most notorious executioner.

The two officials spoke, in separate briefings in Tunis and London, the morning after the Pentagon confirmed that the air strike, near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, had targeted Emwazi, a British citizen who became known as Jihadi John.

Calling the Islamic State an “evil terrorist death cult,” Mr. Cameron defended the decision to target Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait and is a naturalised British citizen, as “an act of self-defence” and “the right thing to do.”

“We have been working, with the United States, literally around the clock to track him down,” Mr. Cameron said. “This was a combined effort, and the contribution of both our countries was essential. Emwazi is a barbaric murderer.”

Mr. Cameron called Emwazi, who is 27, an “ongoing and serious threat to innocent civilians not only in Syria, but around the world and in the United Kingdom, too.”

Mr. Cameron added, “He was ISIL’s lead executioner, and let us never forget that he killed many, many Muslims, too.”

At a news conference in Tunis, Mr. Kerry confirmed that the outcome of the air strike was not yet known, but said that it should serve as a warning.

“We are still assessing the results of this strike, but the terrorists associated with Daesh need to know this: Your days are numbered, and you will be defeated,” Mr. Kerry said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

“There is no future, no path forward for Daesh, which does not lead ultimately to its elimination, to its destruction.”

Civil liberties advocates have criticised any official British attempt to kill Emwazi as possibly unlawful, in a debate that paralleled the criticism over the Obama administration’s decision to target and kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and a United States citizen, in Yemen in 2011.

Emwazi, who was first known only as an unidentified, masked man with a British accent, first came to prominence in August 2014, when the Islamic State released a video in which the journalist James Foley was shown reading a statement criticising President Barack Obama and the U.S. military operation against the Islamic State in Iraq.

His captor then beheaded him off camera, and then threatened to behead another journalist, Steven J. Sotloff, if his demands were not met.

Two weeks later, the Islamic State released a video showing the masked man beheading Sotloff.

The Washington Post revealed Emwazi’s identity in February, reporting that he grew up in a well-off family that moved to Britain when he was a child, and that he had a degree in computer science from the University of Westminster.

The revelation touched off intense examination of the causes of radicalisation among Muslim immigrants in Europe.

Emwazi was part of a group of young men, called the “North London Boys” by some intelligence analysts, who travelled to Somalia, Syria and other Muslim countries to engage in organised violence.

British officials have said that Emwazi was on a list of potential terror suspects since 2009, but have acknowledged that they were unable to prevent him from travelling to Syria.

The air strike came as scant consolation to Louise Woodward-Styles, a friend of the British aid worker Alan Henning, one of Emwazi’s victims. In a phone interview on Friday, she said that there would be no “closure, particularly for Alan’s family and close friends.”

Mr. Cameron made clear on Friday that his government had taken part in the United States’ decision to target Emwazi. “The United Kingdom has no better friend or ally,” he said.

“If this strike was successful — and we still await confirmation of that — it will be a strike at the heart of ISIL, and it will demonstrate to those who would do Britain, our people and our allies harm we have a long reach, we have unwavering determination and we never forget about our citizens,” he added.

‘Should have faced trial’

The leader of the Opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said that Emwazi should ideally have faced trial. “It appears Mohammed Emwazi has been held to account for his callous and brutal crimes,” Mr. Corbyn said in a statement on Friday.

“However, it would have been far better for us all if he had been held to account in a court of law. These events only underline the necessity of accelerating international efforts, under the auspices of the UN, to bring an end to the Syrian conflict as part of a comprehensive regional settlement.”

Britain is not formally taking part in military action in Syria, but Britain and France are involved in the American-led air campaign against Islamic State targets. — New York Times News Service

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