LONDON – A 21-year-old hacker from Birmingham, England, who tapped into U.S. military networks and was a central figure in the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s online recruitment campaign has been killed in Syria by a U.S. airstrike, according to three senior U.S. officials.
The hacker, Junaid Hussain, was a leading member of the CyberCaliphate, an ISIL unit that broke into the U.S. Central Military Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts this year. He was considered to be the second-most prominent British ISIL member, after Mohammed Emwazi, a fighter often referred to as “Jihadi John” because of his role in the videotaped killings of Western hostages.
The U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Hussain was killed in an airstrike outside Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday. Hussain’s unit has been credited with ISIL’s adept manipulation of social media to recruit fighters and spread propaganda, and Hussain’s online activity was increasingly linked to plots carried out far from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, experts said.
A week earlier, another prominent ISIL figure — Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, a deputy to the group’s leader — was killed in an airstrike in Iraq, the White House said last week.
The deaths come at a time when the Obama administration is debating the effectiveness of the U.S.-led military coalition’s campaign against ISIL to date. The Defense Department’s inspector general is looking into whether military officials have improperly skewed intelligence assessments to present a more optimistic picture.
New York Times