'Jihadi John' won't have the same impact unmasked

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

16 PHOTOS
Jihadi John (ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State)
See Gallery
'Jihadi John' won't have the same impact unmasked
This image made from militant video, which has been verified by SITE Intel Group and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Mohammed Emwazi , known as "Jihadi John," holding a knife. A U.S. drone strike targeted a vehicle in Syria believed to be transporting the masked Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John" on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 according to American officials. Whether the strike killed the British man who appears in several videos depicting the beheadings of Western hostages was not known, officials said. (SITE Intel Group via AP)
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded. (Photo via YouTube)
BREAKING - Jihadi John revealed - the first picture of Mohammed Emwazi as an adult http://t.co/rxdU5ycD2D
This image made from militant video, which has been verified by SITE Intel Group and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Mohammed Emwazi , known as "Jihadi John," holding a knife. A U.S. drone strike targeted a vehicle in Syria believed to be transporting the masked Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John" on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 according to American officials. Whether the strike killed the British man who appears in several videos depicting the beheadings of Western hostages was not known, officials said. (SITE Intel Group via AP)
British Aid Worker David Haines (Photo via YouTube)
In this file still image from an undated video released by Islamic State militants on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, purports to show journalist Steven Sotloff being held by the militant group. Islamic State militants called American journalist James Foley's gruesome videotaped beheading revenge for U.S. airstrikes against the group, and they still hold at least three other Americans hostage, including Sotloff. (AP Photo, File)
Screen shot from an Internet video released Friday that purports to show an ISIS militant beheading British aid worker Alan Henning, who had been taken hostage by the extremist group.
FILE - This still image from undated video released by Islamic State militants on Oct. 3, 2014, purports to show the militant known as Jihadi John. A U.S. drone strike targeted a vehicle in Syria believed to be transporting the masked Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John" on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, according to American officials. Whether the strike killed the British man who appears in several videos depicting the beheadings of Western hostages was not known, officials said. (AP Photo/File)
ED NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - This image made from a video released by Islamic State militants on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, purports to show a militant standing next to Japanese journalist Kenji Goto before his beheading by the militant group. Goto was captured in October 2014, after he traveled to Syria to try to win the release of Haruna Yukawa. (AP Photo)

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighter threatens to behead Japanese hostages Journalist Kenji Goto Jogo, left, and military contractor Haruna Yukawa in a propaganda video released by the organization January 20, 2015.

(Photo: Alamy)

Kuwaiti lawyer Salem al-Hashash talks to reporters in his office in Kuwait City on Sunday, March 8, 2015. The former lawyer for the father of Mohammed Emwazi, unmasked as "Jihadi John" last month, said there is no evidence proving the masked Islamic State militant is his client's son. (AP Photo/Hussain al-Qatari)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: The home where the British Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) militant known as 'Jihadi John' is claimed to have once lived, is pictured on February 26, 2015 in London, England. Mohammed Emwazi has been pictured in videos showing the beheading of Western hostages. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An arrangment of British daily newspapers photographed in London on February 27, 2015 shows the front-page headlines and stories regarding the identification of the masked Islamic State group militant dubbed 'Jihadi John'. The British headlines were dominated on Febryary 27 by the story of the identification of the Islamic State executioner. 'Jihadi John', the masked Islamic State group militant believed responsible for beheading of at least five Western hostages, has been named as Kuwaiti-born computing graduate Mohammed Emwazi from London. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL SORABJI (Photo credit should read DANIEL SORABJI/AFP/Getty Images)
EXCLUSIVE PICS: The Man Utd & S Club 7 fan who became I.S. executioner 'Jihadi John' unmasked http://t.co/BBES6nVowK http://t.co/5v9pjNHcqU
James Foley's mother says she 'forgives' Mohammed Emwazi http://t.co/dPHi1gvRK1 http://t.co/b1xtfU456u
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

LONDON (AP) -- As "Jihadi John," he was a terrifying figure, his identity concealed by a black mask, his threatening tone backed up by his oversize, serrated knife and his willingness to use it in the name of Islamic State and its self-declared caliphate.

His professional-looking videos began with a political rant and ended with his victims lying dead at his feet, severed heads cupped in the sands of Syria. He seemed both judge and executioner, savoring each fresh kill.

After the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., many believed that terrorists would turn to crude weapons of mass destruction to attack cities. Few predicted that a man with a knife and a video production team could have such an impact using a medieval technique.

Now that he has been exposed as Mohammed Emwazi, the tall man with the British accent and mocking tone is no longer a mystery. He is revealed as one more furious young Londoner, in this case a well-educated, middle-class jihadi in his mid-20s who turned against his adopted country after he moved to Britain from Kuwait as a boy.

His unmasking may well have reduced his usefulness to the cause.

For one thing, with his identity known, and the global distribution of pictures of him looking slightly goofy in an ill-fitting Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, Emwazi may become less sinister to viewers, less able to send chills up the spines of people who abhor Islamic State's claim to be killing civilians in the name of Islam.

If he kills again on camera, the element of surprise will be gone and the reaction may well be, "Oh, him again."

EARLIER: Emails suggest 'Jihadi John' had suicidal thoughts

Also, now that authorities know who he is, there is little doubt he will become the target of a drone attack if the U.S. or Britain can learn his precise whereabouts. The pressure on him could make him less valuable to Islamic State militants - perhaps even a liability.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism specialist with the Swedish National Defense College, said Emwazi can be expected to play a reduced role in the organization because every time he speaks on a mobile phone he risks having his location pinpointed, sparking drone fire that could kill him and others. Ranstorp said the identification of Emwazi also gives the public hope that he will be brought to justice.

"It's quite important for families of the victims," he said. "They know where to focus. They know there is one particular person who has been named who authorities will focus on and who will live for the rest of his life knowing that every day he will face a possible drone attack. Now that he is known, he may not be as menacing as he once was."

Now that details about his personal trajectory have begun to emerge, Emwazi becomes the stuff of parliamentary inquiries: How was he radicalized? Why didn't the security services determine he was a mortal threat and do something to keep him from getting to Syria?

Emwazi is perhaps the most chilling exemplar of the radicalization trend that is gaining pace not just in Britain but also in France, Belgium, Denmark and other countries in western Europe.

He went to Syria early, in 2013, in the vanguard of the British jihadi movement, before the Islamic State militants seized territory and issued a call for other likeminded people - including girls and young women - to join its ranks in Syria and Iraq.

There is circumstantial evidence suggesting Emwazi tried earlier to link up with al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia but was thwarted in part by a British spy who tried unsuccessfully to recruit him into the secret service.

Since then, the call to jihad has intensified, galvanized in part by easy access to Internet sites that depict the Islamic State's territory as a religious utopia governed by Shariah law.

Britons watched helplessly this week as three teenage schoolgirls who had run away from their homes in London were reported by police to be in Syria, apparently linked up with Islamic State extremists as potential "jihadi brides."

Now al-Shabaab is making threats of its own, warning that the two big shopping malls in London - as well as the famous department stores on Oxford Street - are considered targets for terrorist attacks along with the Mall of America in the U.S.

Nearly half of British Muslims surveyed in a BBC poll published this past week say the British public is becoming less tolerant of Muslims. At the same time, the UKIP political party is making gains by taking a stand against increased immigration.

This increased polarization was clearly one of the goals of the Islamic State campaign that used Emwazi's familiar London accent as a potent reminder to Britons that the enemy was in their midst: not some far-off person speaking Arabic, but a homeboy from their streets.

"The fact that he appears like a relatively ordinary young British resident is disquieting," said John Gearson, professor of national security studies at King's College London. But "the de-mystification of this individual reduces the propaganda effect for Islamic State. He's just a murderer now."

Still, if Emwazi's moment has passed, Islamic State militants - with their strong grasp of how to use social networking and video to spread fear - are likely to come up with other ways to shock the public.

More from AOL.com:
House Speaker John Boehner: I like my job 'most days'
Texas nurse is suing hospital where she contracted Ebola
Kerry asks for benefit of the doubt on Iran nuclear talks

Read Full Story

People are Reading