Friday, 27 February 2015

Mohammed Emwazi was an 'extremely kind, extremely gentle' young man radicalised by MI5: UK advocacy group CAGE

London: Mohammed Emwazi, now identified as the Islamic State's notorious executioner 'Jihadi John', followed a familiar trajectory from a 'beautiful young man' to an alienated and radicalised victim of persecution by MI5, a British advocacy group claims.

However, the group, CAGE, has quickly attracted criticism for appearing to excuse the actions of a man complicit in horrific acts of torture and terrorism.

This masked, black-clad militant has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi. Photo: Supplied

Since the initial Washington Post story on Thursday identifying Emwazi as Jihadi John, multiple news organisations have confirmed the identity from security service sources.
CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said that the Mohammed Emwazi he knew was an 'extremely kind, extremely gentle, extremely soft-spoken' young man during a press conference in London. Photo: AP
This runs contrary to a previous, much-publicised theory that Jihadi John was British-born rapper Abdel-Majid Abdel Bary.

CAGE's Asim Qureshi said he saw "striking similarities" between the boastful executioner of hostages on an IS video and the Emwazi he knew - though he couldn't be 100 per cent sure.

"He was such a beautiful young man, really," Mr Qureshi said of Emwazi. "There's a young, kind person I remember then I see that image (of the execution) and there doesn't seem to be a correlation between the two.

"It's hard to imagine the trajectory but it's not a trajectory that's unfamiliar to us."

Mr Qureshi began working with Emwazi in mid-2009. Emwazi had come to CAGE for help, seeking a legal method to leave the country. Every time he tried he was stopped, harassed and even "roughed up" by security services, Mr Qureshi said.
Two police officers walk outside a flat in London that was the former home of Mohammed Emwazi. Photo: Reuters
According to Mr Qureshi, Emwazi simply wanted to move to Kuwait, get married and find work.

"The Emwazi I knew was extremely kind, extremely gentle, extremely soft-spoken, the most humble young person that I knew," Mr Qureshi said.

"He was the kind of person to turn up at CAGE's offices with posh baklava (sweet pastry) saying 'I was thinking about you guys and wanted to say thank you'."
Islamic State militant Mohammed Emwaz, a Kuwaiti-born British man, attended the University of Westminster studying computer programming. Photo: Getty Images
However, in a court document published by the BBC, Home Secretary Theresa May said there were "reasonable grounds for suspicion" that since his return to the UK in February 2007 from Africa Emwazi had "continued to associate regularly with members of a network of … Islamist extremists involved in the provision of funds and equipment to Somalia for terrorism-related purposes and the facilitation of individuals' travel from the UK to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity."


Mr Qureshi said Emwazi had simply been on holiday in Tanzania, and then had suffered groundless persecution by security services on a "fishing expedition". At one point he was "strangled" by a police officer. After years of failing to clear his name, he had "gone missing".

"When we treat people as outsiders they will inevitably see themselves as outsiders and look elsewhere to belong," Mr Qurashi said.

It was a "sound bet" that without that persecution Emwazi would not have ended up as the online public face of IS terrorism, he said.

He had not made the link between the two people until approached by the Washington Post on the weekend – and when he told Emwazi's family they were "in absolute shock", he said.

The statement put out by CAGE on its website, and the subsequent press conference, sparked fury on social media.

"About time groups like CAGE are banned and put on the terrorist list," one wrote. Another called them a "disgusting organisation of apologists."

Last year two researchers from the Henry Jackson Society, a British think-tank, labeled CAGE a 'pro-terrorist group' for its history of standing up for convicted terrorists.

The identity of Jihadi John was also verified by King's College London's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

"This demonstrates what we have long said about radicalisation, that it is not something driven by poverty or social deprivation," the centre said in a statement.

"Ideology clearly plays a big role in motivating some men to participate in jihadist causes.

"British fighters have clearly demonstrated that they are not in this conflict to take a back seat. They are full participants in this war, operating as suicide bombers, hostage takers, and executioners."

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron declined to comment directly on the matter.

"The Prime Minister would be concerned about information being put into the public domain at any time that might jeopardise ongoing police or security investigation, or indeed the safety of British citizens."

"It is absolutely right that we allow the police and security agencies to do all they can to bring those responsible to justice and keep British people safe."

British police also declined to comment.

Commander Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, told the BBC: "We have previously asked media outlets not to speculate about the details of our investigation on the basis that life is at risk.

"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."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the family of murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff has said there was some relief that the identity of the masked militant had been revealed.

Spokesman Barak Barfi said Mohammed Emwazi should be locked up in a "supermax prison" for the rest of his life in line with the US justice system.

"We want to go watch him be prosecuted and convicted in an American court of law and then spend the rest of his days in a supermax prison where he'll live in isolation," Barfi told BBC World. "That's American justice, that's how our country deals with these situations."
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