British citizen Junaid Hussain, an ISIS hacker who was once charged with stealing Tony Blair’s personal details, has been killed by a US drone strike in Syria.
US officials told CNN on Wednesday that they have a “high level of confidence” that Hussain, aged 21, was killed in a drone strike in Syria earlier this week.
Drones were used to confirm the identity of Hussain after it received a tip about his location. The strike specifically targeted Hussain travelling in a vehicle in Syria, officials said, .
The US is near to formally announcing Hussain’s death, however it first needs to confirm the target was Hussain, according to CNN. Meanwhile officials said there was a 'good deal of sensitivity' about reactions in the UK’s Muslim communities to the fact that the US targeted a British citizen.
Hussain is allegedly a key IS recruiter and is believed to have been one of its most formidable hackers who’s been linked to the IS-affiliated Cyber Caliphate group, which took control of the US Military Command’s Twitter and Facebook accounts in January and in April claimed responsibility for hijacking TV5Monde’s to broadcast the message “Je suIS IS” and warning French solders against fighting ISIS.
Hussain fled to Syria in 2013 to join ISIS after dodging bail during an investigation into violent disorder allegations.
UK media had covered Hussain’s move to Syria and ISIS membership, however US interest in the Brit grew after he was linked to the gun attack on contestants at a cartoon drawing contest in Texas earlier this year. Prior to the attack, one of the gunman told his followers to follow the account of Abu Hussain al-Britaini — the name Hussain had adopted for his Twitter account following his move to ISIS.
Peers from his former life as a hacker in the UK have since described him as someone who’s “not to be taken lightly”, however the hacker didn’t have much luck keeping a low profile before his move.
In 2012, then aged 18, Hussain was jailed for six months for hacking the Gmail account of one of Tony Blair’s advisors and accessing the former UK Prime Minister’s address book, which he later posted online. He was also identified as TriCK, one of the key members of a hacking group TeaMp0ison and charged with the group’s denial of service attack on the UK’s terrorist hotline.
Read more: Syria removed from the Internet
His undoing came after TeaMp0isoN posted a recording on YouTube of a prank phone call made to the UK’s anti-terrorist hotline. On the call, someone in the background referred to the caller as TriCK. In a , TriCK said the call to the police was to protest the extradition of people to the US on unfounded accusations.
Hussain’s defence lawyer told the sentencing judge that Hussain was “frightened of custody” and had been accepted to study at university. The judge said that despite Hussain’s strong family background, “there has to be an aspect of deterrence”.
In August the Pentagon named Hussain as its number three on its hit list, behind Mohammed Emwazi, the hostage killer known as ‘Jihadi John’, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader.
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