By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The U.S. military says it is “reasonably certain” that a British Islamic State (IS) militant nicknamed by the media as “Jihadi John” was killed in a drone strike.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition conducting air strikes against IS fighters, said on November 13 that Mohammed Emwazi, the man’s real name, is thought to have been killed in the Syrian city of Raqqa but that the military was still seeking confirmation.
Warren said the drone strike was a “fairly routine operation” to kill Emwazi, whom he called a “human animal.”
The BBC has quoted a senior British military official who says there is a “high degree of certainty” that “Jihadi John” was killed in the drone strike.
An unnammed U.S. official was quoted earlier as saying the air strike was “flawless” and the infamous British militant was “evaporated.”
However, British Prime Minister David Cameron said it remains unclear whether the man who beheaded several Western hostages in IS videos had been killed.
A Kuwaiti-born British citizen believed to be in his 20s, Emwazi has been described by a Spanish journalist who was a former hostage as a bloodthirsty psychopath who enjoyed threatening Western hostages.
The journalist, Javier Espinosa, who had been held in Syria for more than six months after his abduction in September 2013, said those being held by three British-sounding captors nicknamed them “the Beatles,” with Jihadi John a reference to Beatles member John Lennon.
Among those beheaded by Islamic State militants in videos posted online since August 2014 were U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.
Britain’s intelligence community had Emwazi on its list of potential terror suspects for years, officials said, but was unable to prevent him from traveling to Syria. He had been known to the nation’s intelligence services since at least 2009, when he was connected with investigations into terrorism in Somalia.
The strike to get Emwazi coincided with the beginning of a major U.S.-backed offensive against IS in northern Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said while on a visit to Tunis on November 13 that the IS’s “days are numbered.”
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, a suspected associate of Emwazi was detained by Turkish authorities on November 13.
The man is reportedly thought to be Briton Aine Lesley Davis, who worked for the IS as a guard for foreign hostages in Syria.