Steven Sotloff killer targeted in drone strike in Syria
A U.S. drone strike in Syria Thursday targeted the infamous masked Islamic State executioner named "Jihadi John," the Pentagon announced.
But it's unclear if the strike killed — or even came close to taking out — the terrorist, known for his brutal beheading of several Western hostages in Syria. Military officials are still working to determine whether the strike killed the militant, a British citizen whose real name is Mohamed Emwazi.
ABC News, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said Emwazi was “eviscerated” as he left a building in Raqqa, Syria, and entered a vehicle. The official called it a “clean hit” with no collateral damage, according to ABC.
Officially, the Pentagon would only confirm that the strike had Emwazi in its sights. "U.S. forces conducted an airstrike ... targeting Mohamed Emwazi, also known as 'Jihadi John,'" Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
"We are assessing the results of tonight's operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate," Cook said.
Emwazi is believed by the United States to have participated in the videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff — who was a UCF journalism student — and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and a number of other hostages.
Emwazi, 26, graduated from the University of Westminister in London with a degree in computer programming in 2009. Born in Kuwait and raised in London, he left the British capital and became a star salesman for a Kuwaiti IT company, The Guardian newspaper reported earlier this year.
Speaking in a British accent in some of the Islamic State videos, Emwazi was born in Kuwait but grew up in affluence and lived for years in London before he turned to militancy and murder.
At some point, he traveled to Tanzania for a safari with friends, but he was detained by authorities, according to the British-based human rights group CAGE. He was taken to a police station, stripped to his underwear and held in a cell for 24 hours, according to a CAGE case file released in February.
Friends of Emwazi told the Post they believed Emwazi became radicalized because of the Tanzania incident.