Sunday Star-Times

Rapper who became an Isis mouthpiece killed


Rapper turned militant Denis Cuspert – one of Germany’s most notorious Islamic State members, and a high-profile figure behind the group’s propaganda efforts – is most likely dead, according to three German security officials and one person close to him.

His death had been erroneousl­y reported multiple times, including in 2015, when American officials said they had confirmed that he was hit by a United States air strike in Syria.

But German authoritie­s said yesterday that photograph­s circulated on social media offered ‘‘strong indication­s’’ that the lifeless person shown in them was indeed Cuspert, also known as ‘‘Deso Dogg’’ and by the nom de guerre Abu Talha al Almani.

The SITE Intelligen­ce Group, which monitors the online activity of extremist organisati­ons, obtained several photos that appeared to show the body of Cuspert, along with a statement announcing his death. The photos and the statement were believed to have been originally circulated by the pro-Isis Wafa Media Foundation, but so far no official Isis media outlet has confirmed Cuspert’s death.

The statement released by SITE claims that Cuspert was killed on Thursday in an air strike in the town of Gharanij in eastern Syria.

Even though German officials voiced confidence that the person shown on the released images was Cuspert, the photos’ origins could not be independen­tly verified.

Charlie Winter, a researcher who studies Islamic State propaganda at London’s Internatio­nal Centre for the Study of Radicalisa­tion at King’s College, said: ‘‘While photograph­s of dead foreign fighters do sometimes emerge, it is unusual for a eulogy like this one to be published.’’

But in encrypted messages exchanged with The Washington Post, a close friend of Cuspert’s said he recognised certain physical features in the released photos. He noted, however, that he and Cuspert were not in the same location at the time of the air strike and said he had not seen the body himself.

Cuspert, the son of a Ghanaian father and a German mother, became a gang member while growing up in Berlin. Like a growing number of European militants, he was convicted several times before becoming a militant.

After spending time in an institutio­n for young criminals, Cuspert started rapping in the 1990s under the name Deso Dogg, short for ‘‘Devil’s Son’’. Despite his criminal past, he gained prominence in the entertainm­ent industry in 2006 when he toured with US rapper DMX.

Cuspert later converted to Islam, and ended his rap career in 2010 following a car accident.

The radicalise­d Cuspert eventually travelled to Syria, where he joined Isis and quickly became involved in the group’s propaganda efforts, appearing multiple times in video releases. In one video, he held the severed head of a victim.

Cuspert also became the focus of a court case against an FBI translator with top-security clearance, Daniela Greene, who travelled to Syria in 2014 to marry him. She stayed in Isis territory for several weeks before returning to the US, where she was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

 ?? YOUTUBE ?? Former criminal Denis Cuspert converted to Islam after a car accident ended his music career.
YOUTUBE Former criminal Denis Cuspert converted to Islam after a car accident ended his music career.

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