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Rapper-turned-jihadi reportedly killed in Syria

January 18, 2018

Renowned German jihadi Denis Cuspert has been killed in Syria, at least according to a pro-"Islamic State" propaganda news site. He's been reported dead before. But the site posted photos purporting to show his corpse.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Denis Cuspert, a former rapper known in jihadi circles as "the German," was reportedly killed earlier this week in Syria.

The SITE intelligence group, a US-based company that tracks online extremist media, reported that the pro-IS Wafa Media announced the death of the Berlin-born former rapper. Cuspert used to go by the stage name "Deso Dogg."

Cuspert was previously reported killed by a US airstrike in Syria in 2015, before the Pentagon backtracked and said he was only wounded. Those were not the first erroneous reports of Cuspert's death.

Wafa Media released photos, purportedly showing Cuspert's dead body, saying he was killed on January 17 in Deir al-Zour province in eastern Syria.

Deutschland Denis Cuspert IS
Cuspert went by the nom de guerre Abu Talha al-AlmaniImage: SITE Intelligence Group/Twitter/dpa

Rita Katz, the director of SITE intelligence, wrote on Twitter that although IS did not confirm Cuspert's death, the Wafa report appeared credible.

"Despite there being previous reports of Cuspert's death, this one seems more compelling: various details, photos, etc. Wafa Media's report could very well turn out to be true," she wrote.

Wafa also reported that Cuspert was "massively injured" in Raqqa during a siege led by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, who captured the former IS capital late last year.

It wasn't clear if Cuspert had died from those injuries or in other combat or an airstrike. 

IS propagandist

Cuspert played an "effective role in attracting foreign brothers" and in establishing IS' media division, Wafa said.

Denis Cuspert
"Deso Dogg" was once a minor celebrity in Berlin rap circlesImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Cuspert had often called for terror attacks in Europe and appeared to be a spokesman to recruit German-speaking Islamic extremists, sometimes through violent videos. 

The half-Ghanaian, half-German was born in Berlin's Kreuzberg district. After pursuing a rap career for several years, around 2009 Cuspert renounced music after converting to Islam and mingling in Salafist circles. 

Around 2012, Cuspert went to Egypt before disappearing in Syria, where he initially joined the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front before switching allegiance to IS in 2014. 

cw/msh (dpa, Reuters)