The United States military said Friday it was "reasonably certain" that the Islamic State executioner known as "Jihadi John," a British citizen, was killed in a drone strike in Syria, AFP reported.
Mohammed Emwazi, whose masked figure appeared in a string of graphic videos showing the beheading of Western hostages, was targeted in a combined British-American operation Thursday in Raqa, the de facto ISIS capital in war-torn Syria.
In a briefing webcast from Baghdad to Pentagon reporters, Colonel Steve Warren said it would take time for formal confirmation that the Hellfire missile drone strike killed the notorious 27-year-old militant.
But Warren said the United States had "great confidence that this individual was Jihadi John."
"We know for a fact that the weapons 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, according to AFP. "We are reasonably certain that we killed the target that we intended to kill, which is 'Jihadi John'."
"This guy was a human animal, and killing him probably makes the world a little bit better place," Warren added.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier said Emwazi's death was "not yet certain," but that if confirmed, it would be "a strike at the heart" of ISIS.
“Jihadi John” was seen in ISIS videos showing the beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Allan Henning, and most recently Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.
He had not been seen in a beheading video since the Goto murder, but was reportedly seen in a one-minute 17-second video in August in which he vowed to continue “cutting heads”, then promised a triumphant return to Britain with the terror group’s self-styled leader.
Analysts said Friday the impact of Emwazi's death would likely be symbolic rather than tactical for the jihadist group, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, where they have declared a "caliphate," and is known for widespread atrocities.
Emwazi, a London computer programmer, was born in Kuwait to a stateless family of Iraqi origin. His parents moved to Britain in 1993 after their hopes of obtaining Kuwaiti citizenship were quashed.
Dubbed "Jihadi John" after hostages nicknamed a group of ISIS guards The Beatles, he first appeared in a video in August 2014 showing the beheading of Foley, a 40-year-old American freelance journalist captured in Syria in 2012.
The reporter's parents said Friday the executioner's death was of little consolation to them.
"It is a very small solace to learn that Jihadi John may have been killed by the U.S. government," John and Diane Foley said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"His death does not bring Jim back," said the couple. "If only so much effort had been given to finding and rescuing Jim and the other hostages who were subsequently murdered by ISIS, they might be alive today."
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)