Breaking News Emails
LONDON — A British activist group on Friday published what it said was email correspondence with the man identified as the ISIS fighter “Jihadi John” before his descent into radicalization.
CAGE, which says its mission is to fight oppression by governments in the name of the war against terrorism, claimed that Mohammed Emwazi was “radicalized” because of repeated harassment by British security services.
CAGE's belief that Emwazi bore an "extremely strong resemblance" to "Jihadi John" — the masked figure filmed beheading American and British citizens in propaganda videos — formed part of a Washington Post story naming him Thursday as the notorious ISIS executioner. A U.S. intelligence official confirmed the identity to NBC News.
NBC News was unable to independently verify the emails. But Duncan Gardham, a London security expert who has spoken with British intelligence sources and members of the London extremist community, told NBC News on Thursday that Emwazi had strong links to a Somali group that "first introduced him into the radical world."
Gardham said that Emwazi was also involved with a man named Bilal el-Berjawi, who became a senior commander in the Somali terror group al Shabab before he was killed in a drone strike three years ago.
According to CAGE, Emwazi said he was repeatedly stopped by British authorities while trying to exit and enter the United Kingdom. He became frustrated and desperate when he could not return to his birth country of Kuwait, he said, costing him two prospective marriages and his job.
Emwazi contacted CAGE, the group said, about his situation in the few years before he disappeared into Syria. On Friday, the group published a series of what it said were emails and verbal statements from Emwazi up until his radicalization.
Having grown up in London and graduated in 2009, Emwazi apparently told CAGE that his life changed when he was stopped and interrogated while trying to get into the East African country of Tanzania in 2009.
He claimed he intended to go on a safari. But according to the version of events published by the activist group, Emwazi was imprisoned by Tanzanian officials and deported to the Netherlands, where he was interrogated by an official with the British intelligence agency MI5.
"He knew everything about me; where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with," Emwazi told CAGE, according to the group. "He also believed that I was lying and I wanted to go to Somalia" to link up with al Shabab.
Emwazi said the MI5 official appeared to offer him a job with the intelligence agency. When Emwazi declined, he said, he was told: "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."
The transcripts claim that the MI5 official contacted Emwazi’s fiancée in Kuwait, having the effect of scaring off her family and nullifying the marriage.
Emwazi said was detained again in May 2010, CAGE said, this time returning to Britain after he had been living in Kuwait for eight months.
"Towards the end of this long interview, I told them that I want to be left alone, as I have an ambition of moving from the U.K .and settling in Kuwait," CAGE said, quoting what it said was a verbal statement from Emwazi. "That is why I found a job and a spouse!! But they laughed."
Over the next three years, the activist group said Emwazi began "placing his own difficulties within the wider world around him," referring in one email to the case of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani scientist convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers in Afghanistan.
"I heard the upsetting news regarding our sister Aafia Siddiqui. ... This should only keep us firmer towards fighting for freedom & justice!!!," he said in an email, according to CAGE.
CAGE said that Emwazi was becoming "increasingly desperate" about not being able to return to Kuwait. In early 2013 he changed his name to “Mohammed al-Ayan” and “with one final roll of the dice” tried again, unsuccessfully, to enter the country of his birth.
One week later, he left his parents to travel abroad, prompting his family to report him as a missing person having not heard from him for three days, CAGE said. The police told them four months later that they had information he had traveled to Syria.