Top British-born ISIS hacker reported killed in U.S. airstrike in Syria
A Britisher connected with the Islamic State Hacking Division, responsible for exposing the personal information of hundreds of U.S. military and government personnel, has been killed in a drone strike, according to a U.S. source. After Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, Junaid Hussain was believed to be the most high profile British citizen to join ISIS, according to the Guardian.
According to media activist group ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughter Silently’, Junaid Hussain, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Hussain al-Britani, was killed on 24 August outside his house in Raqqa, capital of the IS Caliphate in Syria.
Junaid Hussain was killed by a targeted airstrike while he was traveling in a vehicle near the Syrian city of Raqqa. However, it was not immediately clear whether the drone strike had been conducted out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, where the United States, in addition to stationing F-16 fighter jets, recently began launching armed drone strikes.
Hussain also has been linked to the so-called Cyber Caliphate group, which is said to be a group of the IS Hacking Division. Hussain is believed to have helped the group in hacking the official U.S. Central Command Twitter and YouTube accounts, according to a report from The Guardian.
A U.S. official was quoted as saying they have a “high level of confidence” that he was killed.
Hussain, 21, who is originally from Birmingham, England is believed to have moved to Syria two years ago after serving prison time for hacking the e-mail of a former aide to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and publishing Blair’s personal information online. Adopting the name of Abu Hussain Al Britani, he repeatedly called for young, computer-literate Muslims to come to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.
“You can sit at home and play call of duty or you can come here and respond to the real call of duty… the choice is yours,” Hussein tweeted in 2014, referencing the popular video game.
In recent months, officials told the Journal that Hussein had tried to use social media to recruit would-be jihadis to carry out attacks against U.S. service personnel. The paper reported that Hussein would regularly post the names, addresses and photos of U.S. troops on his Twitter feed and urge his followers to find the serviceman or servicewoman and kill him or her. U.S. officials believe Hussein was also involved in plotting terror attacks over this past July 4 holiday.
Hussain was also linked with the shooting at the ‘Draw the Mohammed’ Cartoon in Garland Texas in May. Investigations have found that Hussain, who was using his nom de guerre Abu Hussain al-Britani, knew about the attack and even took credit for the failed attack.
According to Sky News, Hussein had spoken about a plot to attack the August 15 V-J Day celebrations in London, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British government.
“It will be big,” Hussein wrote in one communication with the reporter. “We will hit the kuffar [unbelievers] hard InshAllah [God willing]. Hit their soldiers in their own land. InshAllah. Soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan will be present. Jump in the crowd and detonate the bomb.
“They think they can kill Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan then come back to the UK and be safe. We’ll hit them hard InshAllah.” The ceremonies took place without incident.
Junaid was the second most valued target after Jihadi John and was number 3 on the CIA’s secret “kill list”.
Even though American sources are certain that Hussain is dead, two Twitter accounts believed to be linked to ISIS have reported that his British born wife, Sally Jones who is now known as Shakina Hussain, has said he is still alive.
Seamus Hughes, a former US government counterterrorism expert said the while the Twitter accounts were connected to ISIS, it was impossible to determine their accuracy as it “could be a concerted attempt to deceive”.
According to the experts, Hussain and other ISIS computer hackers did not have the ability to launch serious attacks on Western government’s infrastructure and were more of a “nuisance” than a menace.
Adam Meyers, Vice President of Cybersecuirty Firm CrowdStrike said: “He wasn’t a serious threat. He was most likely a nuisance hacker
“It was his involvement in recruitment, communications and other ancillary support that would have made him a target.”