Intelligence officials from Britain's MI5 and MI6 agencies say they know the identity of "Jihad John," the man responsible for the beheading of American journalist James Foley, according to reports from news outlets in the U.K. Fox News also says American officials have corroborated those reports.
According to The Times of London and other sources, "John" is believed to be Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a 23-year-old man from London, who went to Syria to join Islamist forces last year. His father, Adel Abdel Bary, is an Egyptian-born man who is accused of taking part in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. He was extradited from the U.K. to the U.S. in 2012 and is currently awaiting trial.
Bary was an aspiring hip-hop artist who performed under the name L Jinny when he still lived in London. His music has even been played on BBC Radio and there are several YouTube videos of his performances online. It's believed those videos could have been used to match Bary's voice to the voice of the man in the video of Foley's beheading.
Bary has been followed by intelligence services since arriving in Syria last year. Earlier this summer, he tweeted a photo of himself holding a severed head, though it's not believed he executed the man in that photo, and that does not connect him to directly Foley. However, he was believed to be part of a group of British-born fighters who had joined up with ISIL in Syria, along with at least two other men who recently traveled there from the U.K.
Although the man in the video is almost completely covered in black clothing, including his face, and it was filmed in a desolate desert setting with no landmarks, we've written previously about how investigators might be able to piece together clues from his appearance — height, weight, skin tone, and (most importantly) accent — to help identify him. In addition to the apparent identity of the killer, Elliot Higgins (who blogs under the name "Brown Moses") believes he may have even pinpointed the location of the video itself, based on the sparse environmental clues available and comparing them to satellite images of Syria.
Earlier on Sunday, the British Ambassador to the U.S., Peter Westmacott, said in an interview with CNN that "we are close" to identifying a suspect, but would not go further than that. The Daily Mail is also reporting that Britain's elite Special Forces units have sent a significant number of soldiers to the region in recent days, to join the hunt for the group of British ISIL fighters.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.