Newspaper headlines: 'Jihadi John unmasked' and Madonna's Brits 'stunt'

What the i refers to as the "unmasking" of the Islamic State (IS) militant nicknamed "Jihadi John" dominates Friday's papers.

The Sun uses the same verb in describing how Mohammed Emwazi went from being "a footie-mad fan of Kids' band S Club 7" who wanted to play for Manchester United to an IS "executioner". It prints his primary school photograph alongside the report.

"Perhaps the most remarkable thing about 'Jihadi John', the world's most wanted man, is just how ordinary he is," suggests the Daily Telegraph. It maps out the homes of his childhood - in a "leafy and affluent suburb" of west London - picturing each, while explaining step-by-step his "path to radicalisation". According to the Daily Express, the University of Westminster - where Emwazi graduated in computing - was a "hotbed of radicalism" in the heart of London. The university says it works with the government to tackle extremism.

"Was he radicalised there? And if so, do we need to rethink liberal assumptions about free speech that have been the basis of so much of our culture for so long," wonders the Daily Mail in an editorial comment.

The Independent's Patrick Cockburn says there's now no doubting the "PR value" of Emwazi to IS, at a time when air strikes are putting the organisation under strain. "The choice by Isis of 'Jihadi John'... as its English-speaking executioner has everything to do with media impact and the reaction to his apparent unmasking shows that this simple PR ploy is very effective," he says.


'Perceived grievance'

Several front pages say UK security services deserve scrutiny, with the Telegraph describing MI5 "blunders" - including a "botched" attempt to recruit Emwazi - as it reports he had "at least a dozen meetings" with British authorities before he fled abroad.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Asim Qureshi, of campaign group Cage

The Guardian profiles the group that identified Emwazi. Cage - formerly Caged Prisoners - is run from "modest offices" behind East London mosque, the paper says. It reports the group's claim that "repeated detention and interrogation... would have made [Emwazi] susceptible to radicalisation". "There may be a kernel of truth in this," suggests the Independent. "Indeed, the present government has recognised the importance of making a more obvious distinction between genuine counter-terrorism work and programmes which promote community cohesion."

However, as former extremist Maajid Nawaz points out in the Guardian: "Cage seems to have ignored the fact that he tried to join [Somali Islamist group] al-Shabab before being questioned by MI5, not afterwards."

And the Sun says: "How dare anyone blame Britain's security services for this monstrous evil? Cage UK seriously proposed that a man capable of beheading hostages had no terrorist leanings before MI5 forced his hand. It is laughable. But it is also dangerous. Because that logic gives every young Muslim hothead with a perceived grievance against Britain an excuse to join Islamic State."

Sean O'Neill, of the Times, writes that critics blame weakened security on the 2011 abolition of control orders, used to relocate terror suspects and confine them to one address, imposing electronic tagging and surveillance on them and restricting visitors. "One of Emwazi's terror cell... who was described by a judge as 'too dangerous to permit him to be in London even for a short period', jumped into a cab near Euston station and has not been seen since. Shortly afterwards, Emwazi was also able to disappear."


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Pagans, pavements and genitals: it's the odd title awards" - the Independent runs through the contenders for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year (won last year by How to Poo on a Date)
  • "Houseboat owners in deep water" - the Canal and Rivers Trust is clamping down on abuse of relatively cheap "continuous cruiser" boat licences by people who "barely move" , the Financial Times says
  • "Farewell found in a matchbox" - Oxford University's Great War Archive unearthed a soldier's note to his wife, folded into a matchbox and thrown from a train 15 days before he died, the Express reports
  • "Across the Atlantic - in a garden shed" - the Mail hears from an 84-year-old who's written a book about his ocean-wide journey aboard a raft with only a corrugated steel cabin for shelter

Cynical stunt?

Madonna's Brit Awards tumble continues to garner headlines, with the Sun producing a gallery of Twitter spoofs that "broke the internet". They include images of the star's fall made to look like she was being knocked over during a game of quidditch in a Harry Potter film and breakdancing with Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe.

Under the headline "Like a surgeon?" the Sun also reports the singer's comment that she "had a little bit of whiplash". The Mirror hears from a "show source" that she "stormed straight out" of the awards after her performance and that: "Her team were left to pack up and ship out sharpish."

"You know your performance went badly when John Prescott offers his sympathies," writes Kaya Burgess in the Times. The ex-deputy prime minister tweeted that Madonna should: "Look on the bright side. At least you're not wet." The politician had a bucket of water thrown over him at the 1998 Brits by a member of Chumbawamba.

Image copyright PA

Meanwhile, "spare a thought for her stylist" suggests the Telegraph's Anita Singh. She explains that Bea Akerlund is the woman responsible for the "ill-fated outfit" that caused the slip, after Madonna singled out her Armani cape as the cause of the fall. The incident inspires not one but two Telegraph Matt cartoons, one showing a slinky toy with a conical bra and another picturing women tumbling down a domestic staircase saying: "Darling, NOBODY walks downstairs anymore."

However, the Daily Star thinks all is not as it seems. "Madge: You're a Brit of a faker," is the paper's headline to suggestions she'd pulled off a huge publicity coup to sell tickets for her latest tour. "Has the world fallen for a cynical stunt?" asks the Mail, as it points out: "She's got form, remember!" The paper pictures her baring her behind, kissing Britney Spears, wearing a niqab and flashing a breast on stage in previous efforts to gain attention.


'No hiding'

Madonna's slip even inspires cartoons on another subject - David Cameron's failure to meet the target he set before the last election of reducing immigration to "tens of thousands". Peter Brookes, in the Times, pictures the PM in a conical bra and cape, tumbling down a graph charting growing inward migration. The Telegraph's Adams takes a similar approach, drawing Home Secretary Theresa May being tripped by the immigration policy cape around her neck.

Image copyright PA

"There's no hiding it. The figures were disappointing," Mrs May writes in a column in the Sun. However, she insists the system is "firmer and fairer" than the one inherited from Labour and that her party has a plan to reduce the numbers entering the country. However, the Mirror recalls the PM's previous declaration: "If we don't deliver on our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years time." On May 7, we get the chance to do just that, it notes.

"If EU migration had not added a single person to the UK population, Mr Cameron would still have missed his 'tens of thousands' target by 90,000," notes the Daily Mail's James Slack. "It's hard to think of an election promise being broken more spectacularly," he says, adding it was "little wonder that officials tried so cynically to bury [the] immigration figures beneath the findings of the Jimmy Savile inquiry".

Times political editor Francis Elliot says Labour and UKIP will exploit the failure until May 7 but adds: "Unless the polls move dramatically in the next few days there will be growing confidence in No 10 that the worst of the damage is over". UKIP migration spokesman Steven Woolfe certainly has a go at rubbing salt in the PM's wounds in the Express, saying only his party has a plan to "bring down the numbers of people coming to the UK to work and being granted visas to permanently remain at 50,000."

The Guardian is in Thurrock, Essex, where it says UKIP is in a three-way race with Labour and the C onservatives for the seat. It says there's "little sign that immigration as an issue is on the wane" but finds many voters unsure which politicians to trust.


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