Junaid Hussain, the British hacker who rose to prominence in the ranks of Islamic State (Isis), has been confirmed killed in a US drone strike in Syria. Hussain, who later adopted the name Abu Hussain al-Britaini, was a key UK jihadist after the "Jihadi John", another British man seen in several videos of beheadings carried out by the group.
The Birmingham-born militant was killed during a strike by a US military attack and not a CIA operation. Hussain, 21, was believed to have been assigned with recruiting new Islamists for the Iraqi militant group through cyberspace.
Hussain, the suspected leader of the IS's self-proclaimed "Cyber Caliphate", is thought to have been involved in the hacking of the US Central Command's Twitter and YouTube accounts in January 2015. "We have a high level of confidence he was killed," a senior American official told the CNN.
Multiple US security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, have confirmed Hussain's killing to various other outlets including Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. In 2012, the British fugitive was convicted of hacking the email of former prime minister Tony Blair's aide. He fled the UK to Syria shortly after he was released.
Hussain was killed during an airstrike in Syria's Raqqa, the IS's stronghold, but it is unclear whether the drone that killed him was flown from a base in Turkey or any other location. The extent of the involvement of the British government is also not clear even though Hussain was a British citizen.
"He wasn't a serious threat. He was most likely a nuisance hacker. It was his involvement in recruitment, communications and other ancillary support that would have made him a target," Adam Meyers, vice president of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, told Reuters.