Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as Islamic State chief beheader ‘Jihadi John’ believed to have beheaded several American, British, and Japanese hostages. Smiling at the camera with his church school friends, one wouldn’t think this middle-class Muslim schoolboy would grow up to become the merciless terrorist butcher ‘Jihadi John.’
UK Daily Mail Arriving in Britain when he was six years old, Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi appeared to embrace British life, playing football in the affluent streets of West London while supporting Manchester United. Neighbours recalled a polite, quietly spoken boy who was studious at his Church of England school, where he was the only Muslim pupil in his class.
The son of a Kuwaiti minicab driver, young Emwazi arrived in Britain speaking only a few words of English, and appeared more interested in football than in Islam. He went to mosque with his family, who spoke Arabic to each other, but wore Western clothing and became popular with his British classmates at St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school in Maida Vale, West London.
Former schoolmates were yesterday struggling to believe that the quiet boy they knew had been unmasked as the world’s most notorious terrorist. But in a school yearbook from when he was 10, Emwazi lists his favourite computer game as shooting game “Duke Nukem: Time To Kill” and his favourite book as “How To Kill A Monster” from the popular children’s Goosebumps series.
His role as Islamic State’s sadistic butcher was a far cry from the football-mad schoolboy who moved to Britain from Kuwait with his parents in 1993. Given a council flat overlooking the Regents Canal in the exclusive Little Venice area of West London, his father found work as a minicab and delivery van driver while mother stayed at home with Mohammed and his two younger sisters now 25 and 23.
Former classmates at St Mary Magdalene said Emwazi had got into occasional fights after school assemblies, but said he was usually reserved and dedicated to his religion. One former classmate said: ‘It was a Church of England school and he was the only Muslim in our class. One time we had an RE lesson and he got up and talked about his religion.
‘He wrote Arabic on the board to show us what it looked like and how it went in the other direction. He showed us a religious text and spoke about what his religion was about. ‘That was when we were eight or nine. He mentioned fasting. His English wasn’t very good throughout primary school. He could only say a few words at first – like his name and where he was from. ‘He wasn’t so good in school, he was the bottom half of the class, but he was one of the sporty guys.
After finishing primary school in 1999, young Mohammed moved to Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, in St John’s Wood. Once there, he became more observant of his religion and began wearing more traditional Islamic dress, and his sisters began to wear the hijab.
Teachers said Mohammed was still ‘diligent, hard-working…everything you would want a student to be’ and neighbours said he was ‘like any other teenager’. It was only after he won a place studying computing at the University of Westminster that his behaviour began to change.
The university has since been linked with several proponents of radical Islam, and Emwazi appeared to have fallen under their sway. He began attending different mosques and was known to associate with Bilal el-Berjawi, who was killed by a drone strike in Somalia three years ago.
In August 2009, after his graduation, Emwazi flew to Tanzania in East Africa with friends and told authorities they were going on a wildlife safari. But the group was refused entry and put on a plane to the Netherlands, where Emwazi later claimed he was questioned by an MI5 agent called Nick.
The British officer accused him of planning to travel to Somalia to join the militant group Al Shabaab, he said, and said MI5 had been watching him. Emwazi denied the accusation – bragging that he would not take a designer Rocawear sweater in his luggage if he was planning to join Somalian rebels.
In emails to the campaign group Cage, Emwazi said: ‘He [Nick] knew everything about me; where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with.’ ‘Nick’ then tried to recruit the 21-year-old, Emwazi claimed, and threatened him when he refused to cooperate. Emwazi said the officer told him: ‘You’re going to have a lot of trouble…You’re going to be known…You’re going to be followed…Life will be harder for you.’
Meanwhile, two British trainee medics who met Jihadi John in Syria said he had a fearless ‘nothing to lose’ attitude and was always ready for war. Speaking anonymously to ITV, they said the killer was an ‘adrenaline junkie’, they said he went to fight for the al-Nusra front, an Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria, before moving to ISIS to further his ambitions.
The younger brother of Mohammed Emwazi is a small-time criminal with hardline and outspoken Islamist views. It emerged yesterday that the 21-year-old from London follows a radical Muslim cleric – while his younger sister is a media student who once made a short film about a ‘hooded serial killer’. Emwazi’s brother – whom the Mail had decided not to name – is a member of the Woolwich Dawah group, who once harboured the killers of Lee Rigby.