Islamic State’s most notorious executioner, Mohammed Emwazi, was able to slip by European intelligence forces and travel almost completely unhindered to Syria by posing as a migrant, an Islamic State jihadist has revealed.
Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John by his prisoners, had already been placed on a terror watchlist by the British authorities before his departure as he was suspected of attempting to travel to Somalia to fight with Al Shabab. Despite this, he was able to travel on a British passport to Albania while carrying large sums of cash on one leg of the journey.
His status as a potential terrorist was apparently not shared with the Greek authorities, who at a later stage of the journey detained him for four days before allowing him to continue on to Turkey. From there he was able to slip into Syria where he rose to prominence by murdering Western hostages including the American journalist James Foley.
The details have come to light as an unnamed fighter who claims to have made the journey with him has published an 8,000 page account of their trip in the Islamic State’s monthly propaganda publication Dar al-Islam. The jihadi claims Emwazi mocked the European intelligence services for not capturing him, and complained about mosquitos along the way, the Times has reported.
Emwazi, who was Kuwaiti born but grew up in London, opted for a well-known route when he made the trip in the summer of 2012. He and the anonymous author were smuggled out of the country and across the Channel on the back of a lorry, noting that “the controls are much stricter entering the UK than outgoing.”
Fearing that his status as a suspected terrorist might be flagged at a French airport, the pair opted instead to fly out of Brussels, where they bought tickets to Albania “without fear that British services are alerted.”
They agreed that a direct flight to Albania might arouse suspicions so concocted a cover story about plans to catch a connecting flight to Corfu, Greece.
They ate breakfast in a café in a Muslim area of the city, and shaved off their beards. They opted to fly on their British passports, although they also carried fake French passports and €30,000 in cash, neither of which were apparently spotted by airport security.
Although critical of the lack of halal food in Albania, where six in ten are Muslim, the pair had little trouble entering or moving around the country and were able to pay people smugglers £1,000 to spirit them over the border into Kastoria, Greece.
From there they took a taxi to Salonica where they were detained by the authorities for a number of days. But despite Emwazi being known to the British intelligence services, the pair were ultimately released and allowed to travel by boat to Turkey, where they were sent to Istanbul with other migrants.
The Turkish government handed them papers allowing them free movement throughout the country for two months; during that time Islamic State fixers were able to move them across the border into Syria at Bab al Hawa.
Emwazi was killed by an American drone strike in November last year, but not before he had appeared in a number of videos beheading Western hostages including American citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning. He is also believed to have murdered two Japanese citizens Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
Shortly before his death he made threats against Britain, saying in one video: “I am Mohammed Emwazi. I will soon go back to Britain with the Khalifa … I will carry on cutting heads.”