Notorious German-born “gangster rapper” Denis Cuspert, 39, went from a tumultuous youth to converting to Islam and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) this past spring, before being placed on America’s global terrorism watch list. He was published in the U.S. government’s Federal Register on January 27.
According to The New York Times, the failed rapper-turned-internationally-recognized-terrorist (formerly known as Deso Dogg) is half-African, born to a German mother and Ghanaian father, who left them early on. After being at odds with his American stepfather, he became involved with Salafists in Germany before making his way to Syria last year, changing his name to Abu Talha al-Almani (“the German Abu Talha”), and swearing his allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Cuspert was named by the American State Department as “a specially designated global terrorist,” notes the Times and is now reportedly being sought worldwide for what the State Department describes as being “a willing pitchman” for the extremist group’s “atrocities.” He reportedly achieved his nom de guerre, Abu Talha al-Almani, while allegedly fighting alongside militants planning the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in 2013.
The list of potential evidence against him is mounting and culminated with several critical pieces of information. A 2014 video purportedly shows Cuspert in front of a pile of corpses, dressed in civilian clothing. The victims lost their lives during a battle with ISIS militants over control of the much-contested Shaer gas field near Homs in Syria, notes the Times. ISIS is believed to be making up to $3 million a day from the sale of gas from captured oil fields in Iraq and Syria.
In 2012, Cuspert reportedly started an Islamist militant group, Millatu Ibrahim, with Austrian Mohamed Mahmoud. After the group was outlawed, they left for Egypt, before eventually landing in Syria.
The Times also notes that in 2011, Cuspert acknowledged posting a video–which American officials said was staged–showing a Muslim woman being raped by men in U.S. military uniforms. The video was reportedly used as fuel for a 21-year-old immigrant from Kosovo, Arid Uka, who fatally shot two American airmen at the Frankfurt Airport.
Berlin-born American Robert Rigney, who wrote a profile of Cuspert this past December, told the Times, “Everyone in Berlin knows this guy,” reportedly alluding to immigrant neighborhoods, high school dropouts, and rap fans he teaches. “I don’t know what happened to him.”
Some of Cuspert’s songs included themes of martyrdom. The Times notes that a 2013 lyric reportedly said, “I wish for my death and can hardly wait for it/Armed with bombs and grenades.”
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