A British man identified in reports as the Islamic State (IS) executioner known as “Jihadi John” feared he was a “dead man walking” after run-ins with security services before fleeing to Syria to begin his reign of terror, email exchanges with a journalist have claimed.
Computer programming graduate Mohammed Emwazi said he considered suicide after coming face to face with what he suspected to be a British spook as he attempted to sell a laptop computer in 2010.
In an email exchange with the Mail on Sunday (MoS) at the time, Emwazi described how he became suspicious of the mystery buyer after they met.
It was also claimed Emwazi was part of a cell orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden to wreak terror on the streets of London, including having a role in the failed July 21 bomb attacks in 2005, three weeks after the 7/7 bombings which killed 52 people and injured more than 700.
He told the MoS’s security editor Robert Verkaik he felt harassed by security services, in a series of emails in 2010, three years before he left to join IS, saying: “Sometimes I feel like a dead man walking, not fearing they (MI5) may kill me.
“Rather, fearing that one day, I’ll take as many pills as I can so that I will sleep for ever! I just want to get away from these people!”
It comes as British security services face pressure over accusations of failing to keep track of potential terror suspects and forcing desperate British Muslims into the clutches of Islamic extremist groups.
Home Secretary Theresa May rallied to the defence of the UK’s security and intelligence services, calling them “true heroes”, following claims on Thursday by campaign group Cage that MI5 drove Emwazi to extremism.
The University of Westminster has also hit back at claims it is a fertile breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism as arguments rage about who is to blame over Jihadi John.
Kuwait-born Londoner Emwazi had been pinpointed as a potential terrorist by the British authorities but was nonetheless able to travel to Syria in 2013 and join a group responsible for the murder of several Western hostages.
Responding to claims tonight from a fellow former student that the university allowed extremism, a spokesman for the institution said: “We condemn the promotion of radicalisation, terrorism and violence or threats against any member of our community.
“We have strict policies to promote tolerance among our 20,000 student community, who come to study from over 150 nations.”
There was also a renewed suggestion – from a former independent reviewer of government anti-terror laws – that Emwazi might have been prevented from joining up with IS had restrictions on suspects not been relaxed.
“Had control orders been in place, in my view there is a realistic prospect that Mohammed Emwazi, and at least two of his associates, would have been the subject of control orders with a compulsory relocation,” Lord Carlile told Sky News.
“If that had been the case, he would not have done what he’s done in recent times,” the Liberal Democrat peer added.
A power to force suspects to move to another part of the country – dropped when control orders were axed in favour of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims) – has now been restored.
The former head of MI6 also hit back at claims that the security services played a role in Emwazi’s radicalisation.
But Sir John Sawers, head of MI6 from 2009 to 2014, said arguments that harassment drove Emwazi to join IS were “very specious”.
Jihadi John rose to notoriety after he first appeared in a video posted online last August, in which he appeared to kill American journalist James Foley.
Dressed in black with a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the ridge of his nose, and a holster under his left arm, he reappeared in videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and American aid worker Peter Kassig.
Last month, the militant appeared in a video with Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, shortly before they were killed.
Reports tonight suggested Emwazi was part of a terror cell dubbed The London Boys, which included three members – closely linked to Emwazi – who allegedly trained at an Al Qaeda camp. Details of his involvement in the cell were reportedly disclosed during a court hearing in 2011 – two years before Emwazi fled for Syria after complaining to Cage of harassment from the secret services.
Cage director Asim Qureshi was condemned after holding a press conference on Thursday in which he recalled previous meetings with Emwazi and described the man – who reports said would go on to become one of the world’s most wanted terrorists – as “a beautiful young man”, who was “kind and gentle”.
Education chiefs are examining evidence about the north London school attended by Emwazi – which reportedly also educated two others in the same period as Jihadi John, who went on to become Islamist fighters.
The Sunday Telegraph said both Quintin Kynaston Academy (QK) pupils had died fighting for terror groups, one in Syria and the other for al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al Qaida in Somalia.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the St John’s Wood institution “is clearly a completely different school today” but that lessons could be learned from examining how it and others operated at the time.
“Our understanding of the challenge, and the way we monitor the ability of schools to respond to it, has advanced hugely in the past few years,” she said.
“As part of this, this government set up a dedicated Due Diligence and Counter Extremism division within the DfE and they are working tirelessly to develop our understanding of the problem and to see if and where we can offer help to schools with pupils or former pupils who have since travelled to Syria or other areas of concern.
“The Secretary of State has asked them to review those schools where we have evidence of links with pupils who have travelled to Syria.
“The allegations about Quintin Kynaston may be historic and it is clearly a completely different school today, but I’m sure we will look back at the evidence from the time as part of this review to see if there are any lessons we can learn for the future.”
The present school authorities have said they were “shocked and sickened” that Emwazi could have become involved in terrorism and that it has been “extremely proactive in working with the Government’s Prevent strategy for a period of time and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future”.
It came amid reports of disagreement within the coalition over new laws requiring universities and other public bodies to act against hate preachers - with Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said to be unhappy about proposed guidance.
The Sunday Times said he was pushing for only those who incited terrorism directlyto be barred from campuses and warning Tory colleagues that including extremist views that fell short of that would drive them underground.