MIDDLE EAST

Syria

13 November US military officials speaking the day after a drone strike in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, said they were “reasonably certain” that two Hellfire missiles killed the British militant known as “Jihadi John” but whose real name was Mohammed Emwazi (27). “Jihadi John” was the Islamic State’s (IS) executioner whose beheading of Western hostages became to symbolise the militant’s brutality. In August 2014 Emwazi appeared as an unknown masked man in a IS video beheading American journalist James Foley. He subsequently beheaded Steven Soltkoff, another American journalist, Abdul-Rahman Kassig, an American aid worker, David Haines and Alan Henning, both British aid workers, and Kenji Gotto, a Japanese journalist.

18 November The Islamic State (IS) announced in its latest English language magazine, that it had killed two hostages, a Norwegian, Ole Johan Grimsgaard (48), and a Chinese, Fang Jinghui (50), who the group had been holding since at least September. The caption underneath the photo of the two corpses showing the men with bloodied heads that suggested they had been shot, read that they were “executed after being abandoned by kafir nations and organisations”. In a brief statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed deep condolences to the family and named the victim as Fan Jinghui for the first time. The statement continued to say that the government made “all out efforts to rescue” the victim and that “the Chinese government strongly condemns this inhuman action and will definitely hold the perpetrators accountable”. According to a later report by the Chinese media, Beijing had been in communication with the kidnappers to try to negotiate the release of Fan Jinghui after his family had received a ransom demand. Negotiations were cut off after Russia and France started heavy airstrikes against IS in Raqqa.

18 November British hostage John Cantlie, a journalist, appeared in an issue of Dabiq, a propaganda magazine put out by the Islamic State (IS) militant group. The latest article attributed to Cantlie is titled “Shift: Paradigm Part II”. The article which may or may not have been written by the hostage discusses the IS caliphate, its currency and Sharia courts. Cantlie was kidnapped by IS in November 2012 and had not been seen in the group’s propaganda material since May 2015.

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