German rapper-turned-ISIS member Deso Dogg, who once seduced an FBI translator, is believed to be dead after a recent airstrike in Syria.
Denis Cuspert, also known by the stage name Deso Dogg, was a hip-hop artist before becoming affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He made propaganda videos for the group, including a 2014 video where he showed off a severed head for the camera and encouraged other Western youth to join him. He was designated as a “global terrorist” by the US State Department in 2015.
On January 17th, Cuspert was reportedly killed in an airstrike in Deir Ezzor province. After his apparent death, photos of his body circulated on social media, with a caption mentioning when and where he had died. According to the SITE investigation group, which monitors the online activity of extremist organizations, these photos are thought to be circulated by the pro-ISIS Wafa Media Foundation.
German officials who have seen the photos are fairly certain that the body is that of Cuspert, and a close friend of his agreed. In encrypted messages exchanged with The Washington Post, a close friend of Cuspert’s said he recognized certain physical features in the released photos. “The ears look very much like Abu Talha’s,” this friend said in encrypted messages with the Washington Post, using Cuspert’s fighting name, “and also some of the scars on the face of the person in the photograph look like the ones I know he had.”
But not everyone is convinced that Cuspert is actually dead. He has been reported dead several times previously, most famously in 2015, and there has still been no confirmation of his death from the US-led military coalition in the area. And Charlie Winter, who studies ISIL propaganda at King’s College, told the Telegraph that it is “unusual” for an elegy to be posted with photos of fallen fighters.
Born in Berlin, Cuspert was in and out of juvenile detention before starting his rap career under the name Deso Dogg. He continued making music through the late 90s and the early 2000s, reaching his peak in 2006 when he toured the US with famous rapper DMX. He ended his rap career in 2010 following a car accident and is believed to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS in 2013.
In 2014, FBI translator Daniela Greene (above) was assigned to look into his case. Instead, Greene fell in love with him and joined him in Syria after telling friends that she was going to go see her parents in Germany. She got married to him, but regretted her decision in less than a month, telling a friend: “I was weak and didn’t know how to handle anything anymore. I really made a mess of things this time.” She managed to leave Syria and turned herself into authority upon re-entering America. Because she cooperated with the investigators, she was given a minor sentence for lying to investigators and served 24 months.
In the wake of Cuspert’s apparent death, many are wondering exactly why the charismatic, talented rapper decided to join ISIL. Many religious extremist groups in Europe target juvenile offenders like Cuspert, according to religious extremism scholar Shiraz Maher. “There was this whole subculture that these guys were buying into a macho world of clandestine behaviour beyond social norms,” he told The Telegraph, in the wake of Cuspert’s death. “A lot of the appeal to these people was based on masculinity and bravado rather than something ideological or religious.”
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