Thursday 23 January 2020

James Foley beheading: Net closes on 'Jihadi John' as London pair probed

SAS is put on standby as it emerges an NHS doctor from East London may hold the key to identifying the jihadi who beheaded James Foley

Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H.
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H.
A masked Islamic State militant holding a knife speaks next to man purported to be U.S. journalist James Foley
Greta Ramelli (L) and Vanessa Marzullo - kidnapped in Syria Photo: Facebook
American journalist James Foley is pictured while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: AP
A masked Islamic State militant speaks next to a man purported to be U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters outside their home in New Hampshire about their son, James Foley (AP)
James Foley went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on a reporting assignment (AP)

Gordon Rayner, Martin Evans, Nicola Harley and Claire Duffin

A BRITISH NHS doctor from east London who was previously accused of kidnapping Western journalists in Syria may hold the key to identifying the jihadi who beheaded James Foley, intelligence sources have disclosed.

Shajul Islam was arrested and charged with kidnapping a British journalist, John Cantlie, in 2012 but was released after his trial collapsed when Mr Cantlie was unable to give evidence.


He had always protested his innocence, saying he went to Syria to use his medical skills to treat victims of the civil war.


His brother Razul, 21, also travelled to Syria and is believed to be fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), the terrorist group that murdered Mr Foley.


Razul Islam is understood to be on a list of suspected British Jihadists whom the security services are comparing with the footage of Mr Foley’s killer, a British man known as “John” described as the leader of a British cell of jihadists known as “The Beatles”.


A former MI6 chief said the “long arm of justice” was closing in on “John” as the SAS was put on standby to capture him.


Shajul Islam, 28, and a second man, Jubayer Chowdhury, 24, who was also charged and cleared of kidnapping, are the only British jihadists charged with kidnapping Westerners in Syria.


Investigators are now trying to establish whether the two men from Stratford, east London, may have information about the identity of Mr Foley’s killer. Shajul Islam, who worked as a doctor at St Bart’s hospital, is currently suspended from practising medicine.


US intelligence sources said they were keen to establish whether Mr Islam had encountered Mr Foley’s killer during his time in Syria.


A smartly-dressed man who arrived at Mr Islam's family home on Thursday night told a reporter it was a “sensitive time” and declined to comment on the brothers’ role in the investigation.


When asked the whereabouts of the brothers, a woman who answered the door at the house said: “We don’t know where they are. We don’t want to talk to you.”


Investigators will also be keen to rule out Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 23, a former rapper from Maida Vale, west London, who went to Syria last year and later tweeted a picture of himself holding up a severed head. He has a similar accent to the man who killed Mr Foley, and has a similar build and skin tone.


A third suspect is Aine Davis, 30, from Hammersmith, west London, a former drug dealer and gang member who converted to Islam and flew to Syria to wage jihad. His family refused to comment.


Richard Barratt, a former director of counter-terrorism at the Secret Intelligence Service, said he was confident the hooded killer would be identified.


He said: “I think the community will be able to recognise this person and I am sure many in the community will be keen to do so, the intelligence community certainly but also the community from which this man comes.


“It is not just a matter of going along and arresting him and bringing him to trial, but there is a course of action that can be taken and once he has been identified that becomes a bit easier and clearer.


“I don’t think anyone is prepared to forget this sort of crime and therefore the long arm of justice will eventually catch him.”

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