British IS leader Jihadi John 'probably' killed in air strike

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Secretary Kerry: 'Still Assessing' Airstrike That Targeted 'Jihadi John'

The United States targeted British Islamic State leader "Jihadi John" in an air attack in northern Syria which Britain said would "strike at the heart of Islamic State" if the militant's death is confirmed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the death of Mohammed Emwazi, who was known as Jihadi John after appearing in videos showing the killings of U.S. and British hostages, could not yet be confirmed and the Pentagon said it was still assessing the effectiveness of the strike.

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But a U.S. official said Thursday's attack in the town of Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital, probably killed Emwazi and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, quoted sources in Raqqa as saying he had been blown to pieces.

See photos of "Jihadi John" during last year's string of beheadings:

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Jihadi John (ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State)
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British IS leader Jihadi John 'probably' killed in air strike
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
British Aid Worker David Haines (Photo via YouTube)
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.

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)

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
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"A car carrying four foreign Islamic State leaders, including one British Jihadi was hit by U.S. air strikes right after the governorate building in Raqqa city," Rami Abdulrahman, Director of the UK-based Observatory told Reuters.

He initially quoted sources in Raqqi as saying the body of "an important British Jihadi" was in the town's hospital but later quoted them as saying Emwazi's body, and those of his three militant comrades, had been left in charred pieces.

Emwazi took part in videos showing the murders of U.S. journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, U.S. aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, and other hostages.

RELATED: See photos of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria

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British IS leader Jihadi John 'probably' killed in air strike
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Shown in the videos dressed entirely in black, a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the bridge of his nose, Jihadi John became a menacing symbol of Islamic State brutality and one of the world's most wanted men. He was born in Kuwait but brought up in Britain.

The British government said it had "been working hand in glove with the Americans" to defeat Islamic State "and to hunt down those murdering Western hostages."

"BARBARIC MURDERER"

Speaking outside his Downing Street residence, Cameron described Emwazi as "a barbaric murderer" who "posed an ongoing and serious threat to innocent civilians, not only in Syria but around the world and in the United Kingdom too".

"If this strike was successful -- and we still await confirmation of that -- it will be a strike at the heart of ISIL (Islamic State)," he said in comments shown live on television.

"It will demonstrate to those who would do Britain, our people and our allies harm, we have a long reach, we have unwavering determination and we never forget about our citizens."

He said the U.S. air strike resulted from a combined effort between Britain and the United States and was an act of self-defense: "It was the right thing to do".

U.S. President Barack Obama has promised justice after the deaths of American hostages and the United States is seeking to increase pressure on Islamic State fighters, who have seized parts of Syria and Iraq, and who Obama has vowed to defeat.

The pressure includes U.S. plans to deploy dozens of special operations forces to Syria, deliver more weaponry to U.S.-backed Syrian fighters and to thicken U.S. air strikes against the militant group.

(Reporting by John Davison and Mariam Karouny, editing by Samia Nakhoul and Timothy Heritage)

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