WATCH: A man who defected from ISIS is giving a chilling account of the militant group’s executioner, known as ‘Jihadi John’. The interview comes as the families of three U.K schoolgirls, who went to Syria to join ISIS, testify before British lawmakers. As Stuart Greer reports, the U.K. is struggling to find a way to keep young people from becoming radicalized.
The interview is the first eyewitness account of an ISIS execution of a foreign hostage.
The purported defector, identified as Saleh, spoke with Britain’s Sky News in Turkey after fleeing the so-called Islamic State — the name of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate, established in territory the Islamist group seized in Iraq and Syria.
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Saleh, a former translator who spoke with his face and head completely covered with a red keffiyeh and his hands behind his back, told Sky News he watched Goto’s killing from a short distance away.
“After he was killed him, three or four person come and take over the body and put in a car. After that, John went on a different road,” Saleh told Sky News Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay.
A report in the Washington Post last month identified “Jihadi John,” seen in a series of videos showing the beheaded bodies of foreign hostages, as Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.
Emwazi is believed to have killed at least seven foreign captives: U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff; U.K. aid workers David Cawthorne Haines and Allan Henning; U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig; Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa — a self-described security consultant whose release Goto attempted to negotiate before being taken hostage himself.
Saleh suggested 26-year-old Emwazi was the key person — the “big boss” — behind the executions of foreign captives.
Although, he said it was a Turkish man who was calling the shots in the direction of the slickly-produced ISIS propaganda videos that show the beheaded bodies of the victims.
In the videos, with the exception of Yukawa’s murder, Emwazi is seen cloaked and hooded holding a serrated knife, with an orange jumpsuit-clad hostage kneeling on the ground beside him.
The hostages often appeared emotionless before Emwazi takes his knife to their necks. Most were forced to denounce their governments before their forthcoming deaths.
Saleh explained that was because they had to endure several mock executions before they were finally murdered. Even then, they weren’t told what was about to happen. He said Emwazi would have him tell the hostages they were only part of a propaganda video and reassure the victims there was nothing to be afraid of.
Since being identified, many details about Emwazi have emerged.
His parents were members of a poor “stateless community” in Kuwait, but moved with him to the United Kingdom while he was a boy. He grew up in Britain and studied computer science at the University of Westminster.
But, he became radicalized somewhere along the way and left for Syria in 2013 and joined up with ISIS.
He was on British authorities’ radar before he left to eventually become one of the militant group’s most brutal killers.