Five footballers from east London who quit UK to transfer to ISIS in Syria linked to Jihadi John

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From the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Times and Espresso

Five radicalised footballers from east London who left the UK to join ISIS may hold the key to helping western authorities locate British executioner Jihadi John.

The group of militants all moved from their native Portugal to London, where they converted to Islam before adopting extremist views and travelling to Syria to join the terrorist network’s ranks.

The men, who lived in Leyton and Walthamstow, have long been on the radar of intelligence officials – who believe the group plays a vital role in the production and dissemination of the sick beheading videos featuring Jihadi John.

In July 2014 – 39 days before James Foley became the first Western hostage to be murdered – one of the east London cell’s ringleaders posted a message on Twitter indicating he had advance knowledge of the American journalist’s grisly fate. 

Nero Saraiva, who lived in a one-bedroom council flat in Walthamstow for three years, tweeted: ‘Message to America, the Islamic State is making a new movie. Thank u for the actors.’ Just over a month later James Foley was beheaded in a YouTube video entitled A Message To America.

Abandoning a five-year-old son in the UK, Saraiva has gradually worked his way up the ranks of Isis. An old Facebook profile claims he graduated with a civil engineering degree from UEL in 2011 and later worked in “gas network operations” for a construction firm.

Although he studied engineering in Portugal, UEL is understood to have no record of him attending. Saraiva’s former partner, who did not want to be named, also had no recollection of him enrolling on a British course. “He was on jobseeker’s allowance most of the time,” she said.  The former partner said they had split up more than four years ago, a few months after the birth of their son. “He hasn’t paid a penny [in child support] since,” she added.

European security officials now believe Saraiva and his East London cell are responsible for the filming and dissemination of the series of sickening beheading videos, including the execution of British hostages Alan Henning and David Haines.

Experts hope the group’s link to Jihadi John, who speaks with a London accent, will help them build a background profile of the ISIS executioner and his networks – and aid in any mission to capture or kill him, the Sunday Times reports.

MI5 are said to have worked out the identity of Jihadi John but have not yet released his name.

All five of the football-playing jihadists showed a passion for football in their younger years, and after moving to the UK, would often meet in a Portuguese-run cafe in east London to watch matches.

It is still unclear how they were radicalised in Britain but the borough of Waltham Forest where they lived is known to be home to a number of Islamic extremists. 

Also among the five, who all moved to London over the space of several years to study or find work, is Fabio Pocas, the youngest member of the group at 22.

Now using the name Abdurahman Al Andalus — a reference to Moorish rule in the southern region of Iberia — Pocas lives in a town called Manbij with a teenage jihadist bride from Holland.  In one Facebook message, he wrote: “Holy war is the only solution for humanity.”

All five of the men had family roots in Portugal’s former African colonies and some were brought up to be Christians.

They travelled to London separately but at one point, a few of them shared a flat in Leyton, according to Expresso newspaper in Lisbon.

Celso Rodrigues da Costa, 28, is believed to have had training sessions with Arsenal – but was not offered a contract by the club. Last April, he was seen in an ISIS video shot on the banks of the Euphrates in Syria with an AK-47 in hand. In the clip, he slammed the West and denounced school teachers as ‘drug dealers and paedophiles’.

Celso is thought to have followed his older brother, Edgar, to Syria in 2012. His 31-year-old sibling, who studied management and accounting in Portugal before emigrating to London, is thought to leading a band of foreign militants in Aleppo.

The fifth member of the cell, a 26-year-old former Catholic known as Sandro, was the last to travel to Syria and was reportedly killed last October in a coalition airstrike.  

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