The US-led coalition targeted Rachid Kassim, an aspiring rapper turned Islamic State operative, near Mosul, Iraq earlier this week. Kassim, who is pictured above, has been involved in several terror plots in the West.
The airstrike was announced yesterday by Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway. “We are currently assessing the results of that strike and will provide more information when it becomes available,” Major Rankine-Galloway told the press. Some French media reports are already claiming that Kassim was killed, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). But American officials remain uncertain.
French officials have tied Kassim to a string of plots in their country. They found that Kassim was part of a network of online operatives who “remote-control” attacks via social media applications. This network has coordinated small-scale attacks around the globe, including in European nations and the US. [For an overview of how these plots work, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: Terror plots in Germany, France were ‘remote-controlled’ by Islamic State operatives.]
In June 2016, Amaq News Agency, one of the Islamic State’s chief propaganda arms, promoted a video from an Islamic State loyalist named Larossi Abballa. The video was recorded at the scene of a brutal double murder in Magnanville, France, which is less than 40 miles north of Paris. Abballa stabbed a police officer and his partner to death, recounting the horror show for the Islamic State’s audience and the rest of the world. Abballa was a member of Kassim’s Telegram group, according to AFP. Authorities concluded that Kassim had encouraged Abballa.
In July 2016, a pair of Islamic State supporters killed a priest at a church in Normandy. The two young men recorded a video in which they pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the so-called caliphate. Amaq quickly edited and disseminated the footage online. A screen shot from the video can be seen on the right.
As FDD’s Long War Journal noted at the time, Amaq’s release of the clip required at least some level of coordination, even if only over the internet. Investigators discovered in the weeks that followed that Kassim provided the two jihadis with guidance online.
Then, in Sept. 2016, French authorities broke up an Islamic State plot near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. According to Reuters and France 24, Kassim “remotely guided” some members of the group, which included several women.
Kassim has been tied to other plots in Europe as well.
Kassim raised his profile by claiming responsibility, on behalf of the Islamic State, for the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France last year. He beheaded a captive in the same video.
The US and its allies have repeatedly targeted Islamic State operatives responsible for “remote-controlling” terrorists abroad. These same operatives are located in Iraq and Syria, but guide jihadis throughout the West and elsewhere.
Two British nationals, Reyaad Khan and Junaid Hussain, were killed in a pair of airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria in Sept. 2015. Hussain has been tied to jihadis around the globe, including terrorists inside the US. Hussain apparently communicated with the two gunmen who opened fire at a May 2015 event in Garland, Texas that was dedicated to drawing images of the Prophet Mohammed. The Department of Justice and the FBI have connected Hussain to a number of other would-be plotters as well.
Hussain’s wife, Sally Jones, has been involved in the Islamic State’s online efforts, too. In Sept. 2015, the State Department added Jones to the US government’s list of designated terrorists. “Jones and Hussain targeted American military personnel through publication of a ‘hit list’ online to encourage lone offender attacks,” Foggy Bottom’s announcement read. “Jones has used social media to recruit women to join” the Islamic State and, in Aug. 2015, “encouraged individuals aspiring to conduct attacks in Britain by offering guidance on how to construct homemade bombs.”
A jihadi known as Abu Isa Al Amriki and his wife, Umm Isa Amriki, were killed in an American airstrike near Al Bab, Syria on Apr. 22, 2016. According to the Pentagon, Abu Isa “was involved in planning attacks against the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.” Like Hussain, he has been tied to a number of jihadis inside the US. His wife was also involved in online recruiting efforts.
FDD’s Long War Journal has reported on the Islamic State’s digital network, including “remote-controlled” plots, since 2015. A list of some of these reports is below:
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.