Newspaper article International New York Times

Pentagon Says Airstrike Likely Killed 'Jihadi John' ; Cameron Calls Decision to Target British Citizen an Act of Self- Defense

Newspaper article International New York Times

Pentagon Says Airstrike Likely Killed 'Jihadi John' ; Cameron Calls Decision to Target British Citizen an Act of Self- Defense

Article excerpt

A senior official with the American military said it had used a Reaper drone armed with Hellfire missiles to attack a car in which he and another militant were thought to be traveling.

The Pentagon said on Friday that it was "reasonably certain" that an American airstrike killed Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State's most notorious executioner.

Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the American-led coalition fighting the militant group, told reporters at a news briefing that the airstrike on Thursday took place near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. He said the Pentagon was still seeking final verification that Mr. Emwazi, a 27-year-old British citizen who became known as Jihadi John, was killed in the strike.

Speaking from Baghdad over a webcast, Colonel Warren said a Reaper drone fired Hellfire missiles at a car in which Mr. Emwazi and another militant were believed to be traveling. "We know for a fact that the weapon system hit its intended target, and that the personnel who were on the receiving end of that weapons system were in fact killed," he said, but it remained necessary to confirm that "those personnel were specifically who we thought they were."

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain defended the decision to target Mr. Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait and is a naturalized British citizen, as "an act of self-defense" and "the right thing to do."

"We have been working with the United States literally around the clock to track him down," Mr. Cameron said in London. "This was a combined effort, and the contribution of both our countries was essential. Emwazi is a barbaric murderer."

He called the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, an "evil terrorist death cult," and said of Mr. Emwazi, "He was ISIL's lead executioner, and let us never forget that he killed many, many Muslims, too."

At a news conference in Tunis, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the airstrike should serve as a warning.

"We are still assessing the results of this strike, but the terrorists associated with Daesh need to know this: Your days are numbered, and you will be defeated," Mr. Kerry said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. …

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