A former German rapper and key recruiting figure for the Islamic State appears to have survived an October 2015 airstrike that was initially thought to have killed him.
The Pentagon put out a statement reversing its conclusion after New York-based music magazine The Fader wrote a profile of Cuspert, detailing his transformation from rapper to radicalized jihadi.
In researching the rapper’s trajectory, the magazine found that German authorities still believed he was alive. The Fader contacted the Pentagon about the discrepancy which prompted Washington to reverse its findings.
“At the time, our assessment was the strike was successful. It now appears that assessment was incorrect, and Denis Cuspert survived the airstrike,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
Cuspert, 41, commonly known by his stage name, Deso Dogg, is a former rap artist popular in the Berlin music scene and became one of the most prominent Western jihadis to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State following his conversion to Islam and eventual move from Germany to Syria.
Joining the Islamist insurgency in Syria in 2013, Cuspert was injured in an airstrike conducted by the Syrian army but survived and eventually pledged allegiance to Al Baghdadi and the Islamic State Caliphate in 2014.
He was one of the more recognized jihadis, as he was featured in several ISIS propaganda videos, including one in which he was shown holding a severed head and was also identified as an off-camera narrator in a video appealing to Germans to join ISIS or carry out attacks at home.
Born to a German mother and Ghanaian father who left shortly after he was born, Cuspert led a troubled life as a teen often clashing with his American stepfather, a U.S. Army veteran, before turning to rap and releasing his first album in 1995.
In February 2015, the State Department named Cuspert a specially-designated global terrorist after assessing that he “appears to serve as an ISIL recruiter with special emphasis on recruiting German speakers to ISIL.”
Last October, an airstrike that was initially touted by the Pentagon as a success, targeted the vehicle he was travelling in near Raqqa, Syria, but German officials remained skeptical of the claim, and in June of this year, the head of Berlin’s domestic security agency BfV declared that there was no evidence the rapper was dead.
According to The Fader’s profile piece, upon converting to Islam, Cuspert used his skills to sing Nasheeds, or anthems praising jihad and also created “Milatu Ibrahim,” meaning Community of Abraham, using his influence to lecture at mosques where “he spoke grandly of the plight of the Palestinians, the drone attacks in Pakistan, and the sins of American imperialism.”