American and British intelligence officials are eyeing a British-born rapper as the militant who beheaded journalist James Foley.
A senior Western intelligence official told Fox News that 23-year-old London rapper Abdel Majed Abdel Bary is the suspect believed to be Foley’s executioner.
U.S. intelligence officials are not commenting publicly on the reports, but a well-placed source told Fox News that Bary’s Egyptian-born father was extradited from London to the United States in 2012 for his alleged connection to Usama bin Laden and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.
Bary traveled to Syria last year to fight with ISIS, the source said.
The Sunday Times and Sunday People identified Bary as a member of a group of at least three British-born ISIS fighters known among former hostages as “The Beatles.”
The Sunday Times reported that MI5 and MI6, Britain’s two major intelligence agencies, had identified the man who did the brutal deed, though he had not been publicly identified.
A counterterrorism source told Fox News that the investigation was moving forward and slowly eliminating individuals of interest. The source also told Fox News that the FBI had opened a crisis file shortly after Foley was kidnapped in northern Syria in November 2012 that included signals intelligence and interviews with former hostages.
The Sunday Mirror, citing British intelligence sources, identified two other suspects as 20-year-old Abu Hussain al-Britani, originally from Birmingham, and 23-year-old Abu Abduallah al-Britani (no known relation), originally from the county of Hampshire on England’s south coast.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the three men known as “John,” “George,” and “Ringo” had formed a special kidnapping gang that may have targeted Westerners like Foley. The paper reported that the hostages regarded the group as particularly vicious jailers, who routinely beat their prisoners and tortured them with Tasers. At one point, the paper reported, the “Beatles” were actually prohibited from guarding the hostages due to the level of violence they inflicted.
According to The Mail on Sunday, the “Beatles” also boasted that they had made millions of dollars from ransoms paid by European countries, enough to “retire to Kuwait or Qatar,” as one hostage told the paper.
The U.S. and Britain have a policy of not paying ransom to terrorist groups in exchange for captured citizens. However, other Western countries have no such policy. The New York Times reported last month that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have received at least $125 million in ransom money since 2008, paid by European countries like France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.
Similarly, The Mail on Sunday reported that France had paid approximately $13.2 million for the release of four hostages held by ISIS earlier this year, while Italy had paid close to $5 million for the release of an Italian journalist. The release of seven other European journalists and aid workers reportedly cost a combined $26.5 million. Last week, the CEO of GlobalPost, a media organization where Foley had worked, revealed that ISIS had demanded a ransom of $132 million in exchange for Foley’s release.
In addition to Foley, ISIS is believed to be holding three other Americans hostage. One of them, journalist Steven Sotloff, is threatened with beheading by the militant known as “John” at the end of the video released last week.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.