A German rapper who dropped his mic to become a prominent member of ISIS is likely still alive, despite a Pentagon report last fall that he was killed in an airstrike, German officials said Wednesday.
Denis Cuspert, aka Deso Dogg, was believed to have been killed near Raqqa, Syria, last Oct. 16 while traveling in a car with two other people. Now, German authorities believe the performer, who released records and once toured with American rapper DMX, may have cheated death.
“We have no evidence that the rapper known as "Deso Dogg" … died in a military action,” said Bernd Palenda, head of Berlin State Protection.
Despite being more of a C-lister in his homeland, Cuspert, 40, became a high-profile target when he joined ISIS in 2012, using his rap skills and show-biz persona to attract radical recruits. He was labeled a "specially designated global terrorist" by the U.S. State Department, which called Cuspert "emblematic of the type of foreign recruit" ISIS seeks and a "willing pitchman" for the organization.
"Cuspert was a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for ISIL who used social media to take advantage of disaffected youth and potential Western recruits," Department of Defense spokeswoman Elissa Smith said in a statement last October.
Word that reports of Cuspert’s demise may have been exaggerated by the Pentagon made big headlines in Germany Wednesday.
“The Pentagon had already declared him dead: but apparently a native of Berlin ISIS Terrorist Denis Cuspert is still alive!” wrote major German newspaper Bild.
Pentagon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cuspert was formally designated as a terrorist in February 2015 by the State Department, a rare step against a European citizen, after he appeared in numerous grisly propaganda videos on behalf of ISIS. In one particularly gruesome video, Cuspert was seen with other fighters who shot one person and beheaded another. Cuspert was not shown killing anyone, but holds the severed head and announces that the dead were enemies of ISIS.
"That's why they've received the death sentence," Cuspert announced in German on the video.
German law enforcement and intelligence officials had long marked Cuspert out as a leader of ISIS' German-speaking contingent.
"Denis Cuspert stands in the focus of security circles because of his essential role for Islamic State,” a German law enforcement official told FoxNews.com last year. “He is propagandist of IS."
The son of a Ghanian father who left Cuspert’s German mother, he recorded three albums for a Berlin-based gangsta rap label and scored a minor hit with "Willkommen in meiner Welt" (Welcome to my World) in 2010.
“Welcome to my world full of hate and blood,” went part of the song. “Children’s souls weep softly when the black angels sing.”
According to a Vice.com report, he converted to Islam in 2010 following a near-fatal car accident. It was then that his music began advocating violent jihad.
In 2011, Berlin prosecutors charged him with illegal possession of weapons after Cuspert appeared brandishing weapons as "Abou Maleeq" in a YouTube video. A police raid on his home yielded weapons and ammunition, and although it did not result in jail time, he was squarely on the radar of German counter-terrorism investigators.
In 2012, Cuspert left Germany for Egypt, before eventually making his way to Syria where he joined Al Qaeda. When Islamic State broke away from the terror group behind 9/11, Cuspert pledged his loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He also released a propaganda video where he calls on jihadist sleeper cells in Europe to carry out terrorist attacks, in Britain, Germany and France, rapping 'We want your blood'.
Last year, it was revealed Cuspert was being spied on for the FBI by a Syrian woman he thought was his wife. The spy transmitted critical information about the rapper and his ISIS colleagues before escaping to Turkey – where she was arrested and then turned over to U.S. officials.
If Cuspert dodged death last fall, it was not the first time. Jihadist sources in April 2014 said Cuspert had been killed in Syria but they later retracted the claim.