The notorious ISIS media figure known as “Jihadi John” was targeted by an American air strike earlier today. “Jihadi John” got that notoriety the old-fashioned way: earning it by appearing in videos featuring the beheading of several hostages taken by the terrorist group.
“Jihadi John” has reportedly been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British subject who was raised in London. He is believed to be responsible for at least seven beheadings in his time with ISIS.
Reports from the Wall Street Journal and CNN indicate that the attack was likely carried out using a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), popularly called a drone, firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The Hellfire is a supersonic laser-guided missile, which was originally designed to take out tanks from five miles away – out-ranging hand-held surface-to-air missiles like the SA-18 “Grouse” (also known as the 9K38 Igla).
This has been a deadly combination that has taken out a number of high-ranking terrorists. In 2002, Abu Ali al-Harithi, a mastermind of the 2000 attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) that left 17 sailors dead, was one of the first to fall to this combination. Other notorious terrorists killed in UAV attacks include Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical cleric who had ties to 9/11 hijackers and the gunman who attacked Fort Hood in 2009, and two leaders of the Pakistani Taliban: Baitullah Mehsud, who reportedly lead the group when former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, and Hakimullah Mehsud, who succeeded Baitullah, and ordered the attack on Malala Yousefzai. Israel also used the Hellfire to kill Hamas bigwigs. The Israeli attacks used Apache attack helicopters to carry out those strikes.
Hellfires have become quite valuable since their 20-pound warhead causes very little collateral damage when compared to other systems, like laser-guided bombs or JADMs. Even the smallest of those, the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, still packs about 206 pounds of high explosive – ten times as much as the Hellfire.
Predator UAVs have been in service for twenty years. The armed versions have carried out strikes for over 13 years. The Predator can reach a top-speed of 135 miles per hour (a little faster than the Fokker D. VII of World War I), and can fly for up to 24 hours. Their sensors usually consist of TV and infrared cameras, although some can carry a synthetic aperture radar. According to an Air Force fact sheet, 150 Predators are in service, and they cost about $20 million each to build. The Predator has also been exported to Italy, Turkey, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates.
In this case, it looks as if once again, a Predator has brought justice to a terrorist.