A jihadi from east London is under investigation over the video of the Jordanian pilot burned to death by Islamic State, it emerged today.
Nero Saraiva is believed to have be-come one of IS’s most senior fighters, alongside “Jihadi John” — the man seen beheading hostages on social media. There is now a possible link between those videos and the one showing the killing of pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
Saraiva, 28, is one of five young men from east London who moved to the capital from their native Portugal, then converted to Islam and were radicalised before heading to Syria to join IS.
A source with Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria said the country’s National Unit of Counter-Terrorism was investigating Saraiva in connection with the videos “among other activities”. The source added: “There are a lot of suspects un-der surveillance, Nero Saraiva is among them. The European authorities have asked Portugal for their collaboration on the investigation, particularly on those suspects with links to the UK.”
According to the source, leading the investigation is Pedro Felicio, a former deputy head of Portugal’s counter- terrorism unit who is now working with Europol in the Hague.
Barbaric murder: Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh was filmed being burned to deathSaraiva’s suspected involvement in beheading videos emerged after he posted a tweet last July, 39 days before the killing of US journalist James Foley, apparently by Jihadi John.
The tweet suggested Saraiva knew IS was holding an American and stated: “Message to America, the Islamic State is making a new movie. Thank u for the actors.” IS announced Foley’s death in a YouTube film called A Message to America. The group behind it, Mu’assasat al-Furqan, is also responsible for the 22-minute video showing the Jordanian pilot burning to death, which emerged earlier this month.
Charlie Winter, of anti-extremism think tank Quilliam, said: “This is the organisation that made the beheading videos. Because Saraiva was allegedly involved in the Foley one, he could have allegedly been involved in the al-Kasaesbeh one. His tweet does show he was aware long before anyone else that a video was happening.”
Saraiva and the other four Portuguese men left their homes in Walthamstow and Leyton two years ago. A friend who socialised with them in Leytonstone said he believed they were lured to Syria by cash offered by IS recruiters.
“These guys are being paid to go there, there’s a lot of money in it and these guys’ families think that’s why they went,” he said. “They were normal guys, they liked a drink while watching football, dressed normally, went to university, and suddenly disappeared. The only thing that happened was they started going to the mosque. They then stopped drinking and socialising.”
One of them, Fabio Pocas, 22, moved from Lisbon to London in 2012 in a bid to become a footballer. Ewemade Orobator, his coach at UK Football Finder, said: “He was very determined to play professional and was very good. He had no money and nowhere to live. I directed him to the council to apply for housing. After that [he] vanished.”
Lieutenant al-Kasaesbeh, 26, was shot down while on a bombing mission over Syria in December.