A recording of Mohamed Emwazi, the Londoner named as the Islamic State executioner known as 'Jihadi John', has emerged in which he recounts a run in with British intelligence agency MI5 — an incident that prisoner rights activists have blamed for his radicalization.
The interview was released on Tuesday by the organization CAGE, which was in contact with Emwazi for two years until 2012 and has stirred controversy by claiming harassment from security services led him to join the Islamic State.
The audio recording was made in 2009, after he was denied entry to Tanzania and allegedly flown to Amsterdam, where he says he was interrogated by British agents. CAGE says he was also questioned upon his return to the UK.
Emwazi, whose version of events has not been independently verified, said the agents asked him what he thought of the 9/11 attacks in New York and the July 7 bombings in London.
Recounting his response, he says "Innocent people have died" in the July 7 bombings on London's transport system, which claimed 52 lives. "I think this is extremism."
He goes on to say that 9/11 was a "wrong thing" and that "if I had the opportunity for those lives to come back then I would make those lives come back." Emwazi also recalls saying of his opinion of events in Afghanistan: "You see the news, innocent people are getting killed."
He told CAGE that MI5 also asked what he thought of "of the Jews," saying he responded: "Everyone's got his right to his own beliefs. I don't force no one."
The recording concludes with Emwazi relating that an MI5 agent said to him: "I still believe that you're going to Somalia to train." He explains: "I said, after what I just told you, after I told you that what's happening is extremism, you're still suggesting that I'm an extremist. Then he started going on and trying to put words into my mouth."
Investigations are ongoing as to the journey of the young man who became 'Jihadi John', the notorious masked figure who appears in a string of videos showing the beheadings of British, American and Japanese hostages. Born in Kuwait in 1988, Emwazi came to the UK in 1994, and attended the Quintin Kynaston Community Academy in St John's Wood, north London. He then studied at the University of Westminster, and graduated in computing before traveling to Tanzania.
It has been reported that Emwazi traveled to Tanzania with Bilal el-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr, who were being monitored by MI5 for links to the Somalian Islamist group al-Shabaab.
In 2009 and 2010, CAGE says, Emwazi returned to Kuwait to stay with his father's family, and spent three months working as an IT salesman, but returned to the UK.
Emwazi's parents, who have returned to Kuwait where they are currently being investigated by the authorities, have reportedly claimed they were last in touch with him in 2013.
According to Kuwaiti investigators cited by the Telegraph, his mother recognized his voice instantly from the hostage videos which prompted the global investigation. They are not believed to have informed the authorities. However in a press conference last week following his identification by the Washington Post and the BBC, CAGE had said his parents didn't believe he was Jihadi John and were in "shock" at the news.
The Telegraph separately reported that Emwazi's father Jassem described his son as "a dog, an animal and a terrorist" in a conversation with a colleague in Kuwait following his identification.
On Monday, in an interview with the BBC, a IS defector said that Emwazi was a cold loner. "He'd only pray with his friends. … the other British brothers prayed with us, but he was strange," he said.
"Isis (IS) play him like a piano. He's a celebrity to attract our Muslim brothers in Europe."