A 23-year-old British former rapper was identified on Saturday by British security officials as the man suspected of beheading American journalist James Foley, according to news reports.
Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who is said to be known by Islamic State members as “Jihadi John” because of his British accent, was identified by unnamed British intelligence sources as the masked terrorist standing by Foley in a video ISIS posted on the Internet of the execution, The Sunday Times of London reports.
Prior to release of the Foley death video, Bary had posted a photo of himself on Twitter holding a severed head.
He was identified by the British Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service, the Times reports, citing sources it did not identify.
Bary, whose music has been played on BBC radio, left his family’s home in West London last year to go to Syria, The Telegraph reports. He had a similar build and skin tone as the jihadist in the video, British authorities said.
For ISIS, Bary is fighting under the name Abu Kalashnikov, the London Evening Standard reports.
The sources provided no other information to the news organizations.
According to the Evening Standard, Bary is the son of high-profile al-Qaida terror suspect Adel Abdul Bary, the Egyptian militant who was extradited to the United States in 2012 over allegations that he masterminded the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Foley, 40, of Rochester, N.H., was kidnapped on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria. He had earlier been kidnapped and released in Libya.
The British intelligence agencies and police estimate that up to 20 extremists from the U.K. are now traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS every month, the Times reports.
But it is taking steps including sending equipment to Kurdish peshmerga fighters to help combat them, as well as offering humanitarian assistance.
The government is under pressure at home to step up action to prevent the radicalization of young Muslims in Britain, some of whom then travel abroad to fight.
More than 500 Britons have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with jihadists in the last few years, according to the intelligence services.
Home Secretary Theresa May indicated Saturday that she could invoke fresh powers to combat radicalization, including banning orders for militant groups.
But the main opposition Labour Party has accused the government of not moving quickly enough or providing enough specifics on what it intends to do.
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