Video: US, UK target "Jihadi John" in drone attack

His actual name was Mohammed Emwazi, but the ISIS terrorist and executioner became known as “Jihadi John” for his British accent in a string of decapitation videos meant to intimidate the West into retreat. How did that work out for Emwazi? According to ABC News, Emwazi “essentially evaporated” when the US and UK coordinated on a drone attack as Emwazi — or someone — exited a building in Raqqa and got into a car, which burst into flames from the rocket strike immediately afterward:

The ISIS terrorist dubbed “Jihadi John”, who oversaw the brutal executions of American and Western hostages, was hit by a U.S. air strike Thursday night and is believed to have been killed, U.S. officials told ABC News.

One official said the jihadist, Mohammed Emwazi, was thought to be hit as he left a building in Raqqa, Syria, and entered a vehicle. The official called it a “flawless” and “clean hit” with no collateral damage and that Emwazi basically “evaporated.”

“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, on Nov. 12, 2015 targeting Mohamed Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John,'” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

“Emwazi, a British citizen, participated in the videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff 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,” Cook said. “We are assessing the results of tonight’s operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate.”

David Cameron said the mission was the right call for the UK:

Mr. Cameron said his country was still waiting confirmation of whether the strike against the U.K.-raised Mohammed Emwazi was successful, but that if it was it would hit at the “heart” of Islamic State.

Mr. Emwazi, who spoke with a British accent and appeared in several gruesome propaganda videos in a black mask while brandishing a knife at the throat of Western captives, became a key propaganda symbol for Islamic State as it tried recruit Westerners into its ranks and stoke its fearsome reputation.

“I have always said that we would do whatever was necessary, whatever it took, to track down Emwazi and stop him taking the lives of others,” said Mr. Cameron. “He posed an ongoing and serious threat to innocent civilians not only in Syria, but around the world, and in the United Kingdom too.”

Both Cameron and the ABC News team argue that this will somehow provide a big setback for ISIS, but that’s not a likely outcome of this operation. “Jihadi John” wasn’t an important commander or strategist in ISIS; he was a psychotic jailer and executioner-cum-propagandist. Nor is the reason to conduct this raid that it will bring comfort to the families of Jihadi John’s victims, an argument already publicly rejected by the Foley and Sotloff families.

The reason to conduct this operation is to demonstrate that we have the will to go after ISIS whenever possible, and we have enough intelligence about their operations to do so. Their leaders might expect us to bomb their front lines or to try to target their high-level commanders. This attack on a Western Quisling says something about our willingness to eliminate those of Emwazi’s ilk, and might say something to those who consider following in his footsteps. But it is hardly “a turning point in the battle against ISIS,” as Juju Chang posits here.

And those positive outcomes still depend on whether the drone strike actually killed Emwazi, and not someone else mistaken for him. Even if that is what happened, it might discourage others from hanging around Emwazi — but it would also send Emwazi underground for a while, too.

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