A day after a purported high-profile Western member of ISIS posted an ominous message on Twitter saying this Fourth of July would be a “day to remember,” U.S.-led coalition missiles may have kept the promise for him – just probably not the way he meant.
Today other Twitter accounts associated with suspected ISIS members mourned the death of Abu Rahin Aziz, also known as Abu Abduallah Britani, who the other accounts said was killed in an American drone strike on the fourth – the same day the U.S. military announced more than a dozen airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria.
U.S. officials declined to confirm or deny Aziz’s death, and extremists have faked death online before. A representative for the British Home Office said that in general, the office does not comment on individual cases.
Anjem Choudary, a controversial London-based Islamic figure and former associate of Aziz, told ABC News he understood Aziz’s death to be confirmed and asked that “Allah accept him in paradise.”
Aziz was prolific in ISIS’s social media outreach, allegedly luring recruits and inspiring attacks on the West online from a number of Twitter accounts.
“America likes hitting people,” said a Twitter account attributed to Aziz recently, “but doesn’t like getting hit back… Oh well, every action has a reaction.”
Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said that if Aziz’s death is confirmed, it would be a “victory” for the anti-ISIS coalition.
“Obviously he is a person, definitely of interest to authorities because of the influence that he has online and the fact that he has been in contact with people in the West ready to carry out attacks,” Vidino said. “He was one of the key people inciting attacks in the West, calling people in the West through social media to carry out attacks.”
Late today President Obama announced the U.S. is taking off the gloves when it comes to hitting ISIS targets in Syria.
“We’re going after ISIL [ISIS] leadership and infrastructure in Syria, the heart of [ISIS] that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world,” he said.
The President cited the attack on a Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas in May as the sort of threat the U.S. now faces. The men behind that attack were inspired by Aziz, among others.
The Telegraph reported Aziz traveled to Syria after he was convicted of stabbing a soccer fan in the eye in London. Vidino said that before he left, Aziz was a known member of the “radical scene” in the U.K.