The ISIS executioner known as “Jihadi John” may be dead — killed by a United States drone strike in Syria on Thursday, CNN and other media outlets reported late Thursday evening. The ISIS terrorist known as Jihadi John appeared in several horrifying online videos produced by the terror group showing beheadings of hostages, including American and British journalists and aid workers. In the videos, Jihadi John appeared to carry out the killings himself.
On the record, U.S. military officials say that the results of the attack by the unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft have not been determined. Speaking anonymously, however, one source said that the notorious ISIS killer, whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi, was killed instantly and brutally by a missile fired by the U.S. drone in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
U.S. officials who spoke anonymously to ABC News said that Emwazi, who is believed to have murdered American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as two British aid workers, another American aid worker, a Japanese journalist, and several other hostages, was definitely killed by the drone strike.
The official told ABC that the iconic ISIS killer was “eviscerated” as he got into a car after exiting a building on a Raqqa street.
The official also called the drone strike a “clean hit” that basically “evaporated” Jihadi John without injuring any bystanders.
Watch a CNN report on the drone strike that may have killed Jihadi John in the video above, at the top of this page.
The Pentagon acknowledged that Emwazi — a Kuwait-born British national and former student at the University of Westminster in London, England — was indeed the target of a drone attack on Thursday, but that the outcome of the strike is still under investigation.
“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, on Nov. 12, 2015 targeting Mohamed Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John,’” said Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary in a prepared statement. “We are assessing the results of tonight’s operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate.”
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Emwazi acquired the nickname “Jihadi John” when it was reported by former hostages, who got out alive, that he was one of a group of four ISIS militants in charge of overseeing western hostages, and that due to the fact that the four terrorists spoke with British accents, the hostages referred to them privately as “The Beatles,” with the apparent ringleader being tagged with the nickname “John.”
Schoolmates of Emwazi remembered him as somewhat socially awkward, generally quiet student who, at some point, became radicalized and traveled to Syria in 2012 to join the so-called “Islamic State” terror organization which claims to be creating a new “caliphate” in the Middle East.
Raqqa is, in effect, that capital of the makeshift ISIS empire.
But in his guise as the masked killer and propagandist Jihadi John, Emwazi became the global public face of ISIS when he appeared in the videos depicting the beheadings of Foley and other hostages — beheadings apparently carried out in gruesome and ruthless fashion by Emwazi himself using a knife.
According to terrorism expert Richard Clarke, who served as a top counter-terrorism official in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, if indeed Jihadi John has actually been killed by the U.S. drone strike, his death would represent an important symbolic victory in the conflict with ISIS.
“Since ISIS has used propaganda and its ‘winner’ image to lure new adherents, when its propaganda figure is killed that makes it look more like a loser, more like the tide may be turning against it,” Clarke told ABC News.
But the mother of slain hostage James Foley was unimpressed with the alleged killing of Emwazi, calling it “small solace.”
“This huge effort to go after this deranged man filled with hate when they can’t make half that effort to save the hostages while these young Americans were still alive,” Diane Foley said.
Unlike that of Jihadi John, the identities of the other British ISIS militants in the so-called “Beatles” group have not been determined. But one U.S. official said that they may have been present at the meeting in Raqqa where Emwazi was targeted by the drone strike.
[Featured Photo via ISIS Video Screen Grab]