4 Mar 2015

Emwazi family 'need conclusive proof' that their son is Jihadi John

John Sparks comes face-to-face with the man whose son is thought to be Jihadi John, the gruesome executioner for Islamic State.

We spent much of the day knocking on doors in a ramshackle district on the edge of Kuwait City but our journey up and down the dusty lanes offered up little in terms of information.

We were trying to speak to the family of Mohammed Emwazi – or anyone who knew them. Emwazi, of course, is reputed to be Jihadi John, the Islamic State militants’ executioner-in–chief.

He’s believed to have started life here, in the impoverished suburb called Taima. It’s home to many stateless Iraqi immigrants called the Bedoons, a group of whom the Emwazis are also members. They left for Britain after the occupation and subsequent liberation of Kuwait in the early 1990s.

But when I tried to speak to a number of local residents about Mohammed Emwazi, no one seemed particularly comfortable. “I am not going to speak about those Daesh people,” said one elderly resident – Daesh, is the Arabic term for Isis.

One young man did speak about what it was like to be a Bedoon in Kuwait. “We have nothing here, no schools, hospitals, we’re on our own,” he said, before his father pulled him away from the camera and marched him down the street.

As the sun dropped over the desert, we returned to the capital, making a final stop at the offices of one Salem al-Hshash, a lawyer representing the family.


After a long wait, Mr al-Hshash beckoned us into his luxuriously appointed office, then waved a thick wad of newspaper articles above his head. He told us he was preparing to sue a number of media organizations for spreading what he said were rumours and lies about the family.

The family were particularly upset, said the lawyer, about claims that Mohammed Emwazi’s mother, Ghaneya, had recognized the voice of her son from the first beheading video six months ago, then failed to report it.

More importantly, Mr al-Hshash revealed that the family do not yet accept that Isis’ gruesome executioner is their son.

“There is nothing to prove what has been reported in the media,” said the family lawyer. “What they need is conclusive proof but so far all they have seen is a young man dressed in a black mask.”

Mr al-Hshash said that Mohammed Emwazi’s father, Jasem and his sister Asma, had been taken into custody for three hours by the Kuwait secret services but were later released. “They have not done anything wrong,” said the lawyer.

Then, as our meeting concluded, the office door opened and Jasem Emwazi appeared, offering an outstretched hand.

It was a brief meeting – we were not allowed to ask questions or take pictures – but Mohammed Emwazi’s father looked drawn and stony-faced. He quickly bid farewell and then backed slowly down the corridor.