The so-called Islamic State promises to bring sharia law to Britain in its latest snuff film, which features an English-speaking child and an apparent reboot of the group’s infamous “Jihadi John” figure.
Born Mohammed Emwazi, “Jihadi John” became the balaclava-shrouded face of ISIS when he executed American journalist James Foley in the group’s first widely circulated video. A British citizen, Emwazi appeared to enjoy some success as a propagandist — at least 700 Britons have traveled to support jihadist insurgencies in Syria and Iraq, according to the BBC.
The United States believes that it killed Emwazi in a November drone strike. But a new actor appears to keep the role alive in the terrorist organization’s new, as-yet-unverified video.
“Only an imbecile would dare to anger a people who love death the way that you love your life,” a masked English militant informs British prime minister David Cameron in the video, as reported by CNN. The militant then addresses all U.K. citizens, saying, “Know that today, your citizenship is under our feet … And that our country, the Islamic State, is here to stay, and we will continue to wage jihad, break borders and one day, invade your land, where we will rule by the Sharia.”
Near the end of the ten-minute film, a small English-speaking child echoes this promise of invasion, saying, “We will kill the kuffar [non-believers] over there,” while pointing into the distance.
Before the child’s send-off, the video appears to document the execution of five captives, each shot through the back of the head while kneeling in an orange jumpsuit. The men are labeled as British informants, who have provided Western authorities with information about the location of ISIS fighters.
A member of a Raqqa-based group that opposes ISIS told the BBC that the victims “included shopkeepers and businessmen from the town.”
The Islamic State suffered a significant defeat last month, when the group lost control of the city of Ramadi to the Iraqi Army. Charlie Winter, a senior researcher in transcultural conflict at Georgia State University in Atlanta, told The Guardian that he believes the video’s primary aim is to divert attention from such “tactical blows.”
Prime Minister Cameron shared that assessment, calling the footage “desperate stuff” from an organization that is “losing territory” and “increasingly losing anybody’s sympathy.”
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the video shows an Islamic State grown “absolutely paranoid” about spies, as militants are “looking over their shoulders, wondering where the next drone strike is coming from.”
But even if ISIS is losing its jihad, some experts believe the group’s new video shows that they still know how to win a news cycle.
“Leaving the executioner unnamed will cause an inevitable scramble, on the media’s part, to figure out who he is,” Winter told The Guardian. “Thereby ensuring renewed prominence for ISIS in the news.”