A new Islamic State video purports to show the death of five alleged British spies at the hands of a man speaking English with a British accent. Although the video was not yet authenticated, news outlets were already comparing the grisly spectacle to the work of Jihadi John.
John, unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi by The Washington Post in February, was reportedly killed by a U.S. airstrike in November. This new clip, first released through the SITE Intelligence Group, features a different man but a familiar message, this time directed at British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“In a seemingly deliberate emulation of Isis videos featuring the British extremist Mohammed Emwazi the footage focuses on one man wearing a balaclava and repeatedly addressing the prime minister directly,” the Guardian reported. “Gesticulating in a manner similar to that used by Emwazi, who was also known as Jihadi John, the unnamed terrorist repeatedly waves a gun at the camera as he references British airstrikes in Syria.”
“Only an imbecile would dare to wage war against a land where the law of Allah reigns supreme,” the gun-wielding man said, referring to Cameron, as the Associated Press reported. “The Islamic State, our country, is here to stay. And we will continue to wage jihad, break borders, and one day invade your land, where we will rule by the Shariah.” The man also referred to Cameron as a “slave of the White House” and a “mule of the Jews.”
Then came the killings. Referring to five men kneeling in the desert in orange jumpsuits as “apostates,” “the enemy” and “spies,” he then appears to shoot them to death. The video closes with a young boy — “who seems to be aged about six or seven years old,” according to the BBC — also speaking English with a British accent.
“We are going to go kill the kafir [non-believers] over there,” the boy said.
In a detailed analysis of the video, the Guardian identified the purported victims, some of whom reportedly “confessed” to reporting on Islamic State activity before their execution. Between ages 25 and 40, three said they were from Raqqa, Syria, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State; one said he was from Aleppo.
The video was being examined by British intelligence officials, as the BBC reported.
Coming less than two months after Jihadi John’s apparent demise — and weeks after brutal Islamic State inspired attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., — the emergence of another man explaining a violent ideology in familiar tones made a strong impression.
“That masked militant becomes the new masked face of the Islamic State, at least for British viewers,” BBC World Service Middle East editor Alan Johnston said.
An unnamed “person familiar with the matter” told the Wall Street Journal that the terrorist group “is likely using this video to divert attention from the extremist group’s recent military failings in Iraq, where they have lost three cities in as many months,” as the paper put it.
In November, some wondered whether the death of Jihadi John meant anything at all.
“He was a symbol of ISIL and we just removed that,” Patrick Skinner, a former CIA agent and director of special projects at the Soufan Group, an intelligence consultant, told Al Jazeera, using an alternative name for the Islamic State. “It will not change one thing about the reality on the ground in Iraq and Syria.” Skinner added: “The fact that they can’t protect themselves in their capital says a lot.”