Newspaper article International New York Times

Officials Say Airstrike Killed an ISIS Hacker ; Americans Identify Target as Briton Who Breached Accounts of U.S. Military

Newspaper article International New York Times

Officials Say Airstrike Killed an ISIS Hacker ; Americans Identify Target as Briton Who Breached Accounts of U.S. Military

Article excerpt

Junaid Hussain, a 21-year-old Briton, hacked into American military networks and was a central figure in the Islamic State's online recruitment campaign.

A 21-year-old hacker from Birmingham, England, who tapped into American military networks and was a central figure in the Islamic State militant group's online recruitment campaign has been killed in Syria by an American airstrike, according to three senior American officials.

The hacker, Junaid Hussain, was a leading member of the CyberCaliphate, an Islamic State unit that broke into the United States Central Military Command's Twitter and YouTube accounts this year. He was considered to be the second most prominent British member of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, after Mohammed Emwazi, a fighter often referred to as Jihadi John because of his role in the videotaped killings of Western hostages.

The American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence reports, said Mr. Hussain had been killed in an airstrike outside Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday.

A week earlier, another prominent Islamic State figure -- Fadhil Ahmad al-Hiyali, a deputy to the group's leader -- was killed in an airstrike in northern Iraq, the White House announced last week.

The news of Mr. Hussain's death comes at a moment when the Obama administration is debating the effectiveness of the American-led military coalition's military campaign against the Islamic State. The Defense Department's inspector general is looking into whether military officials have improperly skewed intelligence assessments to present a more optimistic picture.

Mr. Hussain's unit has been credited with the Islamic State's adept manipulation of social media to recruit fighters and spread propaganda, and Mr. Hussain's online activity was increasingly linked to plots carried out far from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, experts said.

Mr. Hussain, who was believed to use the nom de guerre Abu Hussain al-Britani, offered encouragement on Twitter to the two gunmen who staged a shooting attack in Garland, Tex., in May, at a contest for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. …

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