Hey, Jihadi John 2.0: Is There a Big Bouncy Castle Market in Syria?
British police may be investigating whether a former bouncy castle salesman is the executioner in a new Islamic State video.
It sounds like the plot of a low-budget, made-for-TV movie: A bouncy castle salesman disenchanted with life in East London converts to radical Islam, moves to war-torn Syria, and becomes the focus of a police investigation after he threatens the U.K. in a bloody execution video published online.
But that could be exactly what happened to Siddhartha Dhar, a Hindu-born convert to Islam who fled Britain in 2014 while out on bail for accusations he belonged to a banned, radical Muslim group that encouraged terrorism.
A new Islamic State video published Monday features a British-speaking militant who threatens the U.K. and calls British Prime Minister David Cameron an imbecile. The narrator then appears to shoot one of his five hostages at close range in the back of the head. That masked man is believed to be Dhar, a father of four who used to make a living renting out inflatable castles for children’s birthday parties.
Dhar is also known as Abu Rumaysah. After he was released on bail, he traveled with his wife and children to Paris from London, and then headed to Syria.
“If it is him, bloody hell am I shocked!” said his sister, Konika Dhar. “I am going to kill him myself. He is going to come back and I am going to kill him if he has done this.”
British officials are investigating how Dhar could have traveled to Syria if he had given up his passport, as he should have, when he was released on bail. If he hadn’t fled, he would likely be standing trial next week alongside Anjem Choudary, who was arrested at the same time as Dhar roughly 1 ½ years ago. Dhar, 32, also published videos on his YouTube channel and spoke publicly to the media to denounce the West and preach radical Islam. “I’ve grown up in the West, I’ve lived in the United Kingdom all my life, I’ve seen what a democracy has to offer, and quite frankly it’s quite oppressive,” he said in one video.
Although Dhar’s identity has not been confirmed, British intelligence agencies are working to determine the executioner’s identity through voice recognition tools. His sister said she was not entirely certain it was her brother, but she thought she recognized his voice in the 10-minute clip.
“I believed the audio to resemble, from what I remember, the voice of my brother,” she said. “But having viewed the short clip in detail, I wasn’t entirely convinced, which put me at ease.”
The British-accented militant is not the first to appear in high quality videos published by the Islamic State over the last two years. In 2014, a British citizen named Mohammed Emwazi earned the nickname “Jihadi John” after he narrated the brutal executions of a number of Western journalists and aid workers. Emwazi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in November.
Monday’s video also featured a young child with a British accent who threatens to kill non-believers. Sunday Dare, who lives in London but is from Nigeria, identified the child to police as his 4-year-old grandson, Isa, whose mother brought him to Syria after she was radicalized.
Photo Credit: Regis Martin/Getty Images