Deso Dogg (real name: Denis Cuspert), a German rapper who joined ISIS and recruited fellow Germans to join the cause of jihad, has been killed in an anti-ISIS airstrike, NBC News is reporting.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 30, 2015
In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Elissa Smith confirmed that Cuspert was killed in an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, on October 16.
“Cuspert was a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for [ISIS] who used social media to take advantage of disaffected youth and potential Western recruit. He publicly threatened the president of the United States and German citizens; he also encouraged Western Muslims to conduct attacks.”
Prior to 2012, Deso Dogg was active in the Berlin rap scene, producing violent raps about his gangster life on the streets of Berlin. In a 2007 video, he rapped “welcome to my world of hate and blood.”
Born in Berlin to a German mother and a Ghanian father who abandoned the family, Cuspert was raised by an American stepfather. Throughout his childhood and into his teenage years, Cuspert had difficulties with the law, at various points having served time in prison or at a home for troubled youth. He was also known to suffer from psychological problems.
In 2010, Deso Dogg converted to Islam and attempted a career performing “nasheeds” — that is, Islamic devotional music, according to the New York Times. German intelligence officials believe that he became radicalized in Berlin’s underground Salafist movement, and he soon found himself under the radar of German intelligence.
In 2011, Cuspert, then living and performing under the name Abu Malik, sent a message of support and encouragement to a fellow German Muslim, Kosovo immigrant Arid Uka, on Uka’s Facebook wall, just a few hours before Uka shot and killed two American soldiers at the Frankfurt Airport, according to the Washington Post. At his trial, Uka would claim that he listened to nasheeds, including some of Cuspert’s, on the way to the airport. Cuspert denied being associated with Uka, although he told police he was glad Uka shot the Americans. The German government, in response, banned his videos and attempted to charge him with advocating violence but were never able to put together enough evidence.
In 2012, Cuspert announced that he had joined ISIS. By 2014, he had made his way to Syria, where he fought alongside ISIS rebels under the name Abu Talha al-Almani. He publicly swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Because of his background in music and the fact that he was a radicalized Westerner, ISIS used Cuspert as a spokesperson and recruiter — both jobs he performed with gusto. In a 2013 ISIS recruitment video, Cusper appeared in full military regalia, smiling and laughing by a river, encouraging other Germans to join ISIS and take up jihad against Westerners.
“Brothers. I call you to jihad! This is where you will find freedom!” Gunfire popped in the background, and he laughed. “You can really live here. It’s fun here. Jihad is a lot of fun!”
In other videos, Cuspert rapped while footage of Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive played in the background. In another, he appeared holding the severed head of an enemy.
In February, Smith told Buzzfeed that both U.S. and German authorities wanted to capture or kill Cuspert to put a stop to his recruitment efforts.
“Cuspert has been a willing pitchman for ISIL atrocities. Cuspert is also wanted by the German government on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities in his home country.”
As of this post, the German government has not publicly commented on Deso Dogg/Denis Cuspert’s death.
[Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images]