Monday 26 August 2019

Cameron hails apparent death of Isil executioner 'Jihadi John'

Emwazi, a Londoner nicknamed as Jihadi John is believed to have played a central role in a series of beheading videos
Emwazi, a Londoner nicknamed as Jihadi John is believed to have played a central role in a series of beheading videos

James Tapsfield and Andrew Woodcock in London

David Cameron has hailed the apparent death of "Jihadi John" as a "strike at the heart" of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The British Prime Minister said the US drone attack targeting the notorious British killer - real name Mohammed Emwazi - was an "act of self-defence" and "the right thing to do".

He was backed by the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), who said there was a "sound legal basis" for the air strike in the Syrian stronghold of the terror group.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it would have been "far better" if Emwazi had been brought to justice in the courts for his "callous and brutal crimes".

In a statement delivered outside 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron stressed it was not yet absolutely certain that the "barbaric murderer" was dead.

"If this strike was successful - and we still await confirmation of that - it will be a strike at the heart of Isil," he said. "And it will demonstrate to those who would do Britain, our people and our allies harm, we have a long reach, we have an unwavering determination, and we never forget our citizens.

"Britain and our allies will not rest until we have defeated this evil terrorist death cult and the poisonous ideology on which it feeds."

He said Britain had been working "hand in glove" around the clock with its closest ally, the US, to track down and target the militant, who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of several Isil hostages, including Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.

He argued that Emwazi had remained a threat to innocent people, including in the UK.

"This was an act of self-defence. It was the right thing to do," he said.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook confirmed that US forces carried out an air strike in Raqqa last night "targeting Mohamed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John".

He said: "We are assessing the results of (the) operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate."

Mr Corbyn said in a statement: "We await identification of the person targeted in last night's US air attack in Syria.

"It appears Mohammed Emwazi has been held to account for his callous and brutal crimes. However, it would have been far better for us all if he had been held to account in a court of law.

"These events only underline the necessity of accelerating international efforts, under the auspices of the UN, to bring an end to the Syrian conflict as part of a comprehensive regional settlement."

ISC chairman Dominic Grieve told BBC Radio 4's 'World At One': "It's always better if somebody is guilty of a serious crime that they should be brought to justice through the ordinary legal process but in this case it was clearly impossible for that to happen.

"On the basis that he has been targeted, there is sound legal base for targeting somebody who poses such a risk to other people and has proclaimed himself as willing to kill them."

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish forces pushed into the key town of Sinjar yesterday as a coalition of Arab, Christian and Kurdish rebel factions in northern Syria captured an Isil-held town near the Syria-Iraq border.

In Iraq, the Kurdish forces raised a Kurdish flag in the centre of Sinjar and a top official said it was liberated, though US and Kurdish military officials urged caution in declaring victory in a major offensive to retake the strategic community.

The Kurdish forces encountered little resistance, at least initially, suggesting that many of the Isil fighters may have pulled back in anticipation of the advance. It was also possible that they could be biding their time before striking back.

Kurdish militia fighters known as Peshmerga forces launched the offensive to retake Sinjar on Thursday, and succeeded in cutting a key nearby highway. US-led coalition airstrikes supported the offensive, dubbed Operation Free Sinjar. The town has been under the control of Isil for more than a year.

Also yesterday, across the border in Syria, a rebel coalition known as the Democratic Forces of Syria seized the town of Hol in northern Hassakeh province. Redur Khalil, the spokesman for the main Kurdish fighting faction in Syria, known as the YPG, announced that the coalition took Hol. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the Democratic Forces of Syria had reached Hol. It said the Syrian fighters on the ground were backed by air strikes by the US-led coalition.

Irish Independent

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