The Guardian reports: Prof Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, said the militant was chosen to front the video to cause maximum impact in the west. “This is significant because it signifies a turn towards threatening the west. They are saying we’re going to come after you if you bomb us,” he said.
Neumann said British fighters had been carrying out “horrific acts” like beheadings, torture and executions for a year and a half, but this appeared to be the first with a western victim. He added: “They clearly wanted someone who spoke fluent English because they wanted it to create maximum impact, especially in the US, and because there are not that many Americans it was probably the best second option. They want this to have maximum impact on the west and for parts of it to be streamed on American television networks they needed an English speaker, so it was more about the English language than the nationality.
“It’s not significant that British fighters have been beheading and torturing because that’s been happening for a year and a half. That sort of horrific stuff is something British jihadis have been doing for some time. You will find a number of instances of British jihadis executing, torturing and beheading other people – and we know it’s not just Brits but other Europeans doing it – and occasionally this has come to the surface. Most people beheaded before were not westerners so that’s why this is different. The significant thing is that this was an American and was connected to a direct message that ‘we are targeting you’.”
Leading figures in the counter-terrorism field said it would be possible for intelligence services to identify the militant, despite it being filmed in an unknown location with the fighter dressed head to toe in black. Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics experts at Lancaster University, studied the clip and said the man’s vowels marked him out as likely from the south-east of England, but most likely from London. “We’re definitely looking at a British accent, from the south and probably from London, Kent or Essex. He does something interesting when he says ‘Muslims’. You typically get ‘Muzlims’ but he says something closer to ‘Musslims’.”
Dr Afzal Ashraf, of the Royal United Services Institute, said many of the estimated 500 British fighters in Syria and Iraq had left criminal pasts in the UK so were likely to be known to police. Intelligence agencies would also be using linguistics technology to track down the man, he said. [Continue reading…]