WASHINGTON - Britain is close to identifying a man, thought to be British, who was shown beheading US journalist James Foley in a video released by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group last week, its Ambassador to the US, Mr Peter Westmacott, told CNN.
"We are very close to identifying who this guy is," Mr Westmacott told CNN's State of the Union programme yesterday.
According to British media reports yesterday, British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 believe the hooded man with an English accent to be 24-year-old Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, known to fellow ISIS militants as Jihadi John.
The former rapper left his family home in the affluent west London suburb of Maida Vale last year to fight in the civil war in Syria, The Independent reported yesterday.
His father Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian refugee thought to be one of Osama Bin Laden's closest lieutenants, was extradited from Britain to the United States in 2012 where he is awaiting trial on terrorism charges for his alleged roles in the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Early this month, the younger Bary tweeted a photo of himself wearing military camouflage and a black hood, while holding a severed head in his left hand. The picture was captioned: "Chillin' with my homie or what's left of him."
The Mail On Sunday reported that a "significant force" of British Special Air Service personnel has been deployed to northern Iraq over the past two days, joining local units fighting ISIS, in an effort to find the British jihadis responsible for Mr Foley's murder.
The Sunday Times reported that Bary is the key focus of the manhunt. He is one of the British jihadists former hostages referred to as "the Beatles" due to their British accents. Two others were called "George" and "Ringo".
British papers have identified the two other Britons suspected of involvement in the murder of Mr Foley as Aine Davis, a former drug dealer who converted to Islam, and Razul Islam.
Before leaving the family home to fight in Syria, Bary was an aspiring rapper known as L Jinny whose music was played on BBC Radio 1 in 2012.
The Independent said recordings of his songs will prove vital to the investigating team, with experts using voice recognition technology to match his voice with that of the man who decapitated Mr Foley. Bary made a number of music videos for his songs, with titles like Flying High, Dreamer and Overdose, the paper said.