LONDON — The man believed to be the masked ISIS executioner "Jihadi John" was part of a network of Islamist extremists, according to intelligence agencies, and is just the latest — although the most notorious — of several terrorists to emerge from the west London district neighborhood where he grew up.
Mohammed Emwazi, identified Thursday as the suspected killer of least four hostages including two Americans, went to school in Ladbroke Grove, a stone’s throw from some of the British capital’s most affluent zones.
He was being monitored by Britain’s spy agency, MI5, which attempted — and failed — to prevent him traveling overseas to support terrorism.
The 26-year-old college graduate, who once dreamed of being a soccer player, became the global face of ISIS when he first appeared in August in an ISIS video heralding the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley. He is still at large, most likely in Syria, possibly in Iraq.
Investigators are now seeking a clearer picture of how the Kuwaiti-born Londoner became one of the world's most hunted militants.
But Emwazi is merely the most notorious terrorist to emerge from Ladbroke Grove and is surrounding streets.
Court documents seen by NBC News show MI5 previously linked him to a number of other extremists supporting terrorism in Somalia, where al-Qaeda affiliate al Shabab has been waging an insurgency.
The 2012 document, related to "control orders" that limit the movement of terror suspects, names Emwazi as a member "of a network of United Kingdom and East African based Islamist extremists which is involved in the provision of funds and equipment to Somalia for terrorism-related purposes."
It links Emwazi to Bilal el-Berjawi, a senior al Shabab figure who grew up less than a mile away and was killed by a U.S. drone in Somalia in 2012.
Berjawi first joined militants in Somalia in 2006 and then returned to Britain in 2007 to help raise funds.
Emwazi also lived a few streets away from one of four men arrested in October and charged with an ISIS-inspired plot to shoot police or military personnel on the streets of London.
Tarik Hassane, a 21-year-old medical student nicknamed "The Surgeon," was arrested at his home in Ladbroke Grove on October 7 and is due to stand trial in June charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism, or assisting others to commit such acts, last summer.
The area was the scene of a dramatic terror arrest — captured on video — of two of those responsible for attempting to bomb London’s transit system in July 2005, just two weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in the city.
Muktar Said Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, later jailed for life for their role in the failed attacks, emerged from their Ladbroke Grove apartment surrounded by armed police.