British authorities say they are close to identifying the masked, British-accented militant who carried out the filmed murder of U.S. journalist James Foley. According to reports in the Guardian and elsewhere, he is believed to be “John,” the leader of a group of three British fighters and kidnappers in Syria. The Guardian reports that the people this trio holds captive have come to refer to the three as “the Beatles.”
The Telegraph has identified three possible candidates for “John.” Not surprisingly, a lot of the media attention has focused on one of those men: Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who until recently was better known as the West London rapper L Jinny.
Bary has a number of songs available on YouTube including the xx-sampling “The Beginning,” above, as well as “Overdose,” and “Dreamer,” a collaboration with another rapper named Tabernacle. From a cursory listen, L Jinny’s work doesn’t fall into the jihadi rap genre, with fairly conventional lyrics about the struggles of growing up in London and battles with substance abuse. While not quite a chart-topper, he was successful enough to have his songs featured on BBC Radio 1.
L Jinny is the son of Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian refugee and reported onetime associate of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The elder Bary was sent to the United States in 2012 after a lengthy extradition battle due to his alleged role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. He was arraigned in a Manhattan court on charges including “murder and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.” His trial is ongoing.
The younger Bary left London to take up arms in Syria last year and has been detailing his exploits extensively on social media. Earlier this month, the British media reported that he had posted a photo of himself and a severed head over the caption, “Chillin’ with my homie or what’s left of him.”
It wouldn’t be out of character for the British papers to get a little ahead of themselves in pursuing an intriguing angle. The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey, who has interviewed Abdel Bary’s father, writes that he doubts L Jinny is the man in the mask, if only because he has shown little penchant for anonymity so far.