The masked Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”, who has been pictured in the videos of the beheadings of Western hostages, has been named, the BBC reports.
He has been identified as 27-year-old Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British man in his mid-20s from west London, who was previously known to British security services.
The British security services could not disclose his name earlier for operational reasons.
Emwazi first appeared in a video last August, when he apparently killed the American journalist James Foley.
He was later thought to have been pictured in the videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning, and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter.
Friends told the Washington Post that he was raised in a middle class area of West London and studied computer programming at the University of Westminster. He would on occasion pray at a mosque in Greenwich, they said.
The university confirmed Emwazi had left six years ago, adding: “If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened.”
Emwazi’s friends told the Washington Post they believed he started to be radicalised after travelling to Tanzania in May 2009 following his graduation.
Emwazi later moved to Kuwait, where he got a job at a computer company. But on a visit to London in 2010, he was detained by British counter-terrorism officials and prevented from flying back to Kuwait, his friends said.
It is believed he was known to security services in the UK and the US before leaving for Syria and was linked to a man with connections to al-Shabab, says the BBC’s Dominic Casciani.
“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” Emwazi wrote in a June 2010 email.
“[But now] I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London,” he added, “a person imprisoned and controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace and country, Kuwait.”
The Washington Post said Emwazi was believed to have travelled to Syria around 2012 and later joined Islamic State, which has declared the creation of a “caliphate” in the large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq it controls.
British police declined to comment on the reports, citing the “live counter-terrorism investigation”.