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US identifies Jihadi John and vows he will pay for killings

By James Tapsfield and Gavin Cordon

The British extremist responsible for beheading hostages has reportedly been identified.

FBI director James Comey confirmed the identity of the killer – up to now known only by the nickname Jihadi John – had been uncovered.

However, he refused to give the individual's name publicly.

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said intelligence services were "getting warm" in the hunt for the man with a London accent who featured in videos of the murder of Americans James Foley (40) and Steven Sotloff (31), as well as British aid worker David Haines (44).

The extremist is said to lead a small group of British jihadis who became known by hostages as "The Beatles".

Speaking at a briefing with US journalists, Mr Comey is reported to have said: "I believe we have identified him. I'm not going to tell you who it is."

Asked if he would prioritise capturing the jihadist, he said: "We will do, and (we will) expend the effort that I think the American people would want us to and expect us to."

The Home Office said it had no comment on security operations.

Meanwhile, the daughter of Mr Haines said Islamic State (IS) should be eradicated.

Bethany Haines also told ITV News she hoped her father's body would be one day returned to the family and said she intended to follow him into aid work. Asked about today's vote in Parliament on whether Britain should get involved in military action and airstrikes against IS, she said: "IS needs to be eradicated – they cannot continue this way.

"They can't be doing this to people and getting away with it, no matter what nationality, if they are western or not. Hundreds of Syrians have been killed by them.

"They need to be stopped. If airstrikes and ground forces are what it takes, that's what it takes.

"We've not had a body. I don't know if they are trying to prolong the pain or they don't feel they need to, but as a daughter of someone who has been killed, you want closure. As a family, you want closure.

"They have tried to hurt us by taking away someone we loved, but they have failed because everyone who knows David will have a part of them with them for ever.

"I know my dad would have been very touched and moved by the amount of concern, support and supportive messages people have been giving to us."

Bethany also told how her father wanted to help everyone, regardless of their race or religion.

"Anyone who needed help he was there," she said. "Tragically, he's lost his life doing what he loved, but he wouldn't have stopped. Even if he'd come back, he would've gone out again and again and again. He loved helping people. He was such a bright character.

"He was always making people laugh and telling jokes. He was a brilliant man and he will be remembered like that by everyone who knew him – and probably by people who didn't even know him.

"He will be remembered and not for the way he was shown in that video, but for the truly amazing work he did and for the bright character he was."

Asked if her father was an inspiration to her, Bethany replied: "Definitely. I'm hoping to do some aid work after next year and do a bit of work with a charity.

"Hopefully, it will spark a career in doing that. He'd tell me of all the people that he'd helped and I want to do that too."

US steps up security after fears Islamists plotting attack on New York subway

The Islamic State (Isis) group has plans to attack the Paris Metro system and New York subway, according to Iraq’s prime minister.

Haider al-Abadi told the UN in New York that his country's intelligence agents had received word of the plots, but senior US officials questioned the reports.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said he was aware of the reported threats, adding that security had already been stepped up on public transport systems.

However, the National Security Council (NSC) said there was no evidence the plans existed, although it promised to investigate.

“We’ve seen the reports,” said an NSC spokeswoman. “We have not confirmed such a plot and would have to review any information

from Iraqi partners before making further determinations.”

FBI director James Comey also said he had heard nothing about the supposed plans.

The French government is stepping up anti-terrorist security measures and extending the number of countries French citizens are advised to avoid.

The country reacted with fury yesterday to the beheading of a French citizen in Algeria by a group linked to Isis. And to demonstrate France's commitment to the struggle against Isis, Rafale fighter bombers launched attacks on jihadist positions in Iraq. Eighteen leading French Muslims also signed an open letter condemning the “abominable” murder of Herve Gourdel.

Residents of Mr Gourdel's home village near Nice marched in

protest and mourning yesterday, and flags will be flown at half mast on official buildings across France for three days from today.

It came as the rector of a Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, called for a peaceful demonstration by “French Muslims and their friends” against a “sick ideology which perverts Islam’s values.”

French President Francois Hollande said Mr Gourdel had been murdered “because he was French, because his country fights terrorism and because he represented a people which defends human dignity against barbarism”.

Last week, France became the first country to join the US in airstrikes on Isis positions in Iraq. Until now, Mr Hollande has insisted that bombers, flying from the Gulf, would refrain from attacking Isis positions in Syria because, in his view, there was no legal basis for attacks that would only strengthen Bashar al-Assad.

But following Mr Gourdel's murder, that position seems to be changing. The Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France was now satisfied there was a case to strike Syria, as well as Iraq. And the Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the possibility was now “on the table”.

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