Breaking News Emails
LONDON — A new recording purportedly of "Jihadi John" has emerged in which the suspected ISIS executioner recounts how British spies accused him of extremism and warned they would be watching him.
The edited recording was released by controversial U.K. rights group, CAGE, which interviewed Mohammed Emwazi in 2009 when the Londoner first complained that his movements were being tracked by authorities.
Emwazi, 26, was unmasked on Thursday as the mystery knife-wielding figure seen in ISIS beheading videos in which Western hostages — including two Americans — were apparently murdered. He remains at large, most likely in Syria or possibly in Iraq.
In the audio extracts, Emwazi is heard recounting how intelligence agents accused him of extremism, warning him: “We are going to keep a close eye on you.”
He also described how a British agent asked his thoughts on the July 7, 2007 London terror attacks.
“I said ‘Man, innocent people have died, man, what do you think, I think this is extremism,” the voice purportedly belonging to Emwazi recounts. “He started telling me ‘What do you think of 9/11?’ and I think I told him ‘This is a wrong thing … what happened was wrong.’”
Emwazi said the agent told him “I still believe you are going to Somalia to train.”
“He just started going on … trying to put words in to my mouth saying 'No, you're doin’ this, this, this, this and we’re going to keep a close eye on you Mohammed, we already have been, we are going to keep a close eye on you’ threatening me…”
The recording could not be verified independently, but Duncan Gardham, NBC News security analyst, said the voice did sound "very much like" the familiar voice from the ISIS propaganda video.
"He's talking a little bit faster, he's talking with much clearer London accent and in some ways less comprehensibly because he is speaking so fast," Gardham said. "That gives you the idea that these videos we have seen out in Syria have been scripted and this is him talking off the top of his head in full flow."
CAGE has accused Britain’s security services of driving Emwazi to extremism — a claim the British government has decried as reprehensible.
Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College, London, said it was “very clear” Emwazi had been “involved in extremist circles for a very, very long time.”
“His harassment by security services was really a consequence… not the cause of his radicalization,” Neumann said. “By the point he was trying to go to East Africa, presumably to join al Shabab … he was deeply embedded in extremist circles.”
Emwazi’s father confirmed to Kuwaiti authorities that the voice in the ISIS videos is that of his son, according to local media reports. Al Qabas newspaper said Jasem Emwazi told investigators that his wife recognized the voice of her son when Mohammed first appeared in the grisly ISIS videos. The newspaper also quoted Jasem’s co-workers as saying he had not been seen at work since his son’s identity was first disclosed.
Meanwhile, more detail has emerged about Emwazi’s upbringing in the west London district of Ladbroke Grove, giving clues to what drove him to became involved with Islamist extremism. He was linked to a gang that carried out violent street robberies in London to pay for terrorists to travel abroad — including a high school contemporary who died fighting with al Qaeda in Syria.
Emwazi, himself once accused of petty crimes, was associated with a trio of armed muggers who stalked victims on bicycles in London's affluent Belgravia district, a friend told NBC News.
— Charlene Gubash reported from Kuwait City.