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25 Sep, 2014 20:42

FBI Director: We have identified man in ISIS beheading videos

FBI Director: We have identified man in ISIS beheading videos

The FBI believes it has identified the masked Islamic State militant responsible for beheading Westerners in ISIS videos, but law enforcement will not reveal the identity of the man known only as “Jihadi John,” agency director James Comey told reporters.

"I believe that we have identified him, I’m not going to tell you who I believe it is," Comey said. He also declined to detail the militant’s nationality, despite the fact that the man speaks with a British accent ‒ likely from the London area, according to The Wire, which called the news “a major step to taking down the terrorist network.”

Jihadi John first appeared in a graphic video depicting the beheading of American photojournalist James Wright Foley, who had been missing since 2012 after being kidnapped in Syria.

FBI Director James Comey. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

A former hostage told the Guardian in August that the English-speaking militant was the ringleader of three British jihadists thought to be the main guards of foreign nationals in Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State rebels. He is also said to be the main rebel negotiator during talks earlier this year to release 11 Islamic State hostages – who were eventually handed to Turkish officials after ransom demands were met.

The FBI and other counterintelligence agencies may have used Jihadi John’s eyes – the only part of him not covered in the Foley video – to create a portrait of the man underneath the mask, ABC News reported.

Forensic officials, in consultation with the US government, created both a cleanshaven and a moustached likeness of the man. Other experts are using the size and movement of shadows, as well as rock formations, plants and other geographical landmarks to decipher where and when exactly Foley was murdered.

AFP Photo/HO

Jihadi John also featured in the beheading videos of American journalist Steven Sotloff, 31-year-old freelance journalist who was kidnapped near Aleppo, Syria in August 2013, and 44-year-old British aid worker, David Haines, who was seized by the Islamic State militants in Syria in March 2013 while employed by the Agency for Technological Cooperation and Development (ACTED).

At the beginning of September, a US intelligence source told the Mirror that the identity of the executioners would most likely be revealed officially within the coming days “and it is only a matter of time before we bring him in.”

Anti-terror police at the time were set to arrest up to 12 British suspects, who were believed to be associates of the Islamic State jihadist. Some of the suspects allegedly had connections to previous UK-based terror plots.

However, Thursday was the first time a high-ranking law enforcement official confirmed that the FBI and other counterintelligence agencies know the identity of Jihadi John.

The news immediately was picked up by media outlets around the world, and even led to the latest case of poor phrasing on Twitter that made readers ridicule some breaking news wires from the Associated Press in the past.

This time, Agence France-Presse (AFP) issued the poorly phrased tweet to announce the news, implying the FBI director himself might be Jihadi John.

#BREAKING US has identified IS hostage exectioner: FBI chief

— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) September 25, 2014