The director of a human rights group which sparked outrage after it called Jihadi John ‘a beautiful young man’ may have been involved in training him at a camp run by militants in Syria.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has uncovered evidence that appears to place Cage director and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg at the same Syrian training camp as Mohammed Emwazi – the real name of Jihadi John – in late 2012.
Emwazi later joined Islamic State (ISIS) and began the murderous campaign which has seen the beheading of five Western hostages.
A photograph of Cage director and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg appears to place him at the same Syrian training camp as Mohammed Emwazi – the real name of Jihadi John
Official sources have confirmed to The Mail on Sunday the existence of a photograph of Mr Begg with a Syrian camp commander, who also appears in a video with a man believed to be Jihadi John, apparently taken at the same camp.
The picture was part of police evidence against Mr Begg in a trial last October at the Old Bailey, when he was charged with attending a terrorist training camp in Syria between October 2012 and April 2013.
In the photograph, Mr Begg is sitting around a table with Abu Omar Al-Shishani, who was then leader of the militant group Katibat Al-Muhajireen (KaM), and British jihadi Rabah Tahari with other militants, apparently sipping coffee. The photo was apparently taken at the group’s camp in Northern Syria in December 2012.
A source, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The picture definitely puts Begg in Syria. There were other individuals in the same photo, and they all looked like militants rather than ordinary people.’
The photograph was never produced in court and its existence has not been acknowledged until now.
The trial collapsed within days of opening, due to new evidence being given by MI5 to the Crown Prosecution Service which apparently made the likelihood of a conviction unlikely.
Mr Begg (pictured) denied knowing Emwazi in Syria and denied being at the camp
Months after Mr Begg’s photo with Al-Shishani was taken, a two-minute video was filmed of a masked man believed to be Emwazi, apparently at the same camp, also with Al-Shishani.
When approached last week, Mr Begg denied knowing Emwazi in Syria and denied being at the camp, before driving off from his £500,000 home in Birmingham.
The possibility of a connection between Begg and Emwazi is likely to add more pressure on Cage, which has been condemned for its pronouncements on Emwazi.
Last month the group caused outrage when it described him, as a ‘beautiful young man’ at a press conference, and adding the cold-blooded killer was an ‘extremely gentle’ and ‘humble person’, radicalised by MI5.
The video apparently featuring Emwazi appeared on the internet last month. In it, he gives a speech as red-bearded Al-Shishani stands behind him. Emwazi announces the merger of KaM with another militant group called Jaish Al-Muhammad.
The new bigger group would be called Jaish Al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA), and would be led by Al-Shishani, the masked figure announces.
In late 2013, Al-Shishani defected from JMA to take up a commander role within Islamic State. Al-Shishani took half of JMA’s fighters with him, believed to have included Emwazi.
Months later, Emwazi would become one of the world’s most wanted men, after beheading five Western hostages on camera, including Britons Alan Henning, 47, and David Haines, 44.
Emwazi’s training at KaM in late 2012 and early 2013 suggests an overlap with Mr Begg’s travels in northern Syria at the same time.
Details of Mr Begg’s visit to Syria emerged at the Old Bailey trial, where he and an associate called Gerrie Tahari, 45, from Birmingham, were charged with terrorism offences.
The court heard that Mr Begg visited northern Syria between October 2012 and April 2013.
His visit was intended to investigate the rendition of a Libyan man from Syria to one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s jails with the help of MI5, Mr Begg claimed.
Emwazi later joined ISIS and began the murderous campaign which has seen the beheading of five Western hostages
But he also stayed at a training camp for foreign fighters who were at the time fighting the Assad regime, the court heard.
The prosecution said that detectives found electronic documents in Mr Begg’s computer with titles like ‘tactical training schedules’ and ‘fitness training schedules’ which were used at the camp.
Another allegation made in court was that Mr Begg bought a Honda electricity generator for Gerrie Tahari’s husband, Rabah, who at the time was fighting in Syria as a junior leader of KaM.
After his trial collapsed, Mr Begg gave an interview to The Guardian, where he admitted to training recruits at a camp in Idlib, North-West Syria. The training included exercises using fake wooden guns.
He told the newspaper that such training was not an act of terrorism as it was an attempt to help people defend themselves against a murderous regime.
Separately, in the same month, Mr Begg’s colleague and friend at Cage, Cerie Bullivant, gave an interview to the Foreign Policy journal.
Mr Bullivant told the magazine that Mr Begg stayed at a camp called Jaish Al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (the outfit previously known as Katibat Al-Muhajireen) which was run by Al-Shishani.
Rafaello Pantucci, a Syria expert at the think-tank RUSI, said: ‘It is very likely that Emwazi was at the KaM camp because his friends also went there.
Mr Begg is sitting around a table with Abu Omar Al-Shishani (pictured), who was then leader of the militant group Katibat Al-Muhajireen
‘It is also likely from the evidence of the photograph that Moazzam Begg was linked to the same camp.
‘So Moazzam Begg should reveal what interactions he has had with this camp or other camps.’ Kuwaiti-born Emwazi, who grew up in the Queen’s Park area of West London, is believed to have travelled to Syria in late 2012, apparently fleeing Britain in the back of a lorry.
He is thought to have joined the ranks of KaM, which was fighting the Assad regime at the time. Three of Emwazi’s friends from London joined KaM months before him.
They included Ibrahim Mazwagi, 21, Mohammed Al-Araj, 23, and Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, all of whom have been killed in Syria.
Last night Lord Carlile, the Government’s former counter-terrorism watchdog, said: ‘I think if Moazzam Begg was present at the camp as has been alleged, then I would hope that he makes full disclosure of his activities there.’
A spokesman for Cage said: ‘Cage reiterates its position that the last contact we had with Mr Emwazi was in 2012 over email.’
Logo: The symbol for jihadi group Jaish Al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, which was run by Al-Shishani
Cage also denied claims that it was an ‘apologist for terror.’
A spokesman said: ‘To explain and seek answers to people turning to violence is not to apologise.
‘No Muslim organisation or leader has excused Emwazi’s actions, but we want to understand how a young man brought up here ends up engaging in such behaviour.’
Last night, Birnberg Peirce & Partners, the law firm acting for Mr Begg, said: ‘Mr Begg at no time ever met Mohammed Emwazi; he knew nothing of his existence in Syria or anywhere else.
‘He, Mr Begg, did not train at the Katibhat Al-Muhajireen camp.’
The Charity Commission has investigated the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and The Roddick Foundation over the two bodies’ six-figure donations to Cage.
The Rowntree Trust recently stopped the funding after Cage’s links to Emwazi emerged in the wake of him being unmasked as Jihadi John.
Internet gaffe by US government as UK extremist’s sharia law photo used in free speech ad
The US government has made a bizarre internet gaffe by posting a British Muslim extremist’s photograph of veiled women calling for sharia law, citing it as an inspirational example of free speech in the West.
The American State Department’s ‘Think Again Turn Away’ campaign is designed to dissuade Muslims from joining IS – also known as ISIS – and other extreme groups.
The campaign posted the picture on its Twitter account last week, adding: ‘In open societies, all faiths enjoy freedom of speech; under ISIS rule, no such thing as freedom of expression.’
The photograph shows Muslim women, all in black burkas, running a campaign stall in Dalston, East London
The photograph shows Muslim women, all in black burkas, running a stall in Dalston, East London. They are standing behind a trestle table covered in leaflets and a banner reading: ‘Shariah law or man made law. Which is better for mankind?’
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has found the banner was used in an extremist campaign called Stay Muslim, Don’t Vote, which calls for strict sharia law to be imposed on Britain, as well as urging Muslims not to vote in elections.
The photo was given the caption ‘Muslims coming out inviting society to Islam’ – which was copied by the US State Department – by a man calling himself Abdulrahman Muhajir, whose Twitter account is suspended.
Blunder: Moshiur Rahman, who posted the image online
The Mail on Sunday can reveal he is Moshiur Rahman, a 33-year-old from Luton, who last year was one of 12 Islamists given Asbos banning them from taking part in demonstrations over a violent protest rally on Oxford Street. At least two of the gang are believed to be fighting for IS in Syria.
Anjem Choudary – the hate preacher who has repeatedly blamed British foreign policy for terrorist attacks and whose al-Muhajiroun group was banned by the Government – was present at the event in Dalston on March 7. He has also given talks in Walthamstow and East Ham at demonstrations where the sign was used.
The photo appropriated by the US State Department was first placed on Twitter last week by a woman calling herself Umm Usmaan, who is a leading figure in the anti-democracy campaign.
She described it as an ‘Islamic roadshow’ and included the slogan ‘stay Muslim, don’t vote’ when she put the photo on Twitter.
Yesterday she posted a picture of another sign with the message: ‘The right of legislation belongs to none but Allah!’
Last night, terror expert Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘It’s an incredibly weak “fail”,’ he said. ‘They should be putting a bit more thought into their sourcing. With all of our resources, it’s not even as accomplished as the crudest IS propaganda.’
US Twitter users were also quick to ridicule the State Department, with one calling it an ‘epic fail’.
Conservative US commentator Mark Steyn added: ‘Why is the State Department promoting sharia for the United Kingdom? Aren’t they supposed to uphold the Constitution of the United States? Sharia’s incompatible with that constitution, as it is with the legal inheritance of Western civilisation.’
The State Department did not respond to requests to comment yesterday.