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, which is also known as Isil or Daesh.
However, 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, 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” round 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 IS 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 on Thursday 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.”
Corbyn said in a statement: “We await identification of the person targeted in [the] 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.”
‘Jihadi John’ served as recruiting tool
The Islamic State group militant known as ‘Jihadi John’, who was targeted in a US drone strike, horrified the world with his brutal beheadings of hostages.
But his videos, with sneering taunts of the West, served as a recruiting tool for those drawn to the dark, bloody world of extremism.
Mohammed Emwazi’s brown eyes peering out from a black mask and his London accent became the became the first contact many around the world had with the group, though the extremists carried out other mass killings, rapes, and enslavements in their march across Iraq and Syria.
The reason was the slickly produced, soundbite-quality butchery he and others committed before the camera. Their victims included US, British, and Japanese hostages.
His first filmed killing was that of American journalist James Foley in a video released in August 2014. Tabloids soon made famous the moniker ‘Jihadi John’, based on nicknames freed hostages said they gave their British-sounding captors, a reference to Beatles member John Lennon.
In some ways, the violence he committed was not new — the dark horror of beheading videos haunted the Middle East before.
The Islamic State’s predecessor, al-Qaida in Iraq, released footage in 2004 of the decapitation of American businessman Nicholas Berg. In the video of his killing, Foley wore an orange prison-style jumpsuit similar to the one Berg wore at his death.
However, while the statement in the video of Berg’s killing was in Arabic, Emwazi spoke English in his videos, making the message even easier for the world to understand.
“You’re hearing it in your own language so the threat sounds all the more menacing,” said Raffaello Pantucci, the author of We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists and the director of international security studies at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.
“It speaks to the audience and says, you know, ‘We are you... You think we’re this alien thing but actually no, we’re from within your very communities,’” Pantucci added.
After Foley’s killing, Emwazi appeared in other videos of beheadings, including the mass killing of captive Syrian soldiers. In most, he acts as a narrator, taunting the West and promising an Islamic State victory, though the videos do not make clear if he carried out all of the actual killings.
Militant sympathizers uploaded the carnage to websites and shared them via mobile phone apps in a way impossible only 10 years earlier. That drew more people curious about the Islamic State’s beliefs, inspiring some to join the militant’s self-declared “caliphate”.