Jihadi John, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was anything but terrifying in high school, according to a new report in Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper. In fact, Mohammed Emwazi — revealed this week as the true identity of Jihadi John — was an awkward misfit who was frequently teased for, among other things, his bad breath. He also froze up around girls, too afraid to even speak to one female classmate for whom he nursed a powerful crush.
“He was shy and reserved. He was really quiet and didn’t get involved in all the hype and drama of school life,” Ahlam Ajjot told the Mirror.
Now 27-years-old, Ajjot was 16 when she shared math and English classes with Emwazi, never realizing that the future ISIS executioner was overcome with infatuation for her.
“I never knew Mohammed liked me and I can’t believe it now when I think about him feeling that way,” she told the British paper, thinking back on her time at Quintin Kynaston school in West London. “He never spoke to girls unless he had to. He was awkward. I was so shocked when I saw the news that he was Jihadi John. I couldn’t believe the pictures of him in a balaclava and in Syria. It’s not the person I knew from school.”
In fact, according to another classmate, the teenage Emwazi became so self-conscious after being on the butt end of taunts about his bad breath that whenever he did speak, he would hold a hand over his mouth.
But the young misfit was described by classmates who spoke to the Mirror as “desperate to be liked,” to the point where he spent little time in the local mosque, choosing instead to hang around with a group of older men who smoked marijuana and drove fancy cars, hoping that some of their “cool” would rub off on him.
But he was also given to fits of rage that led him to fights with his classmates, even undergoing anger management therapy for his outbursts, according to teachers at his school.
How exactly the awkward, angry teenager developed into the so-called Jihadi John — a brazen and brutal masked murderer who appears to behead helpless hostages in a series of ISIS videos — remains unclear.
But it does appear that Emwazi’s anger found an outlet when he joined a London terrorist cell that had links to a failed bombing attack that intended to kill dozens in the London streets back in 2005, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.
Emwazi would have been 16 at the time of that terror operation, a time when he was more concerned with his desperate crush on a girl his class than with committing brutal murders. But the Guardian reported that another member of the cell that harbored the future Jihadi John was in direct contact with one of the would-be bombers on the day of the attack.