The Cable

Hack Attack: Pentagon Kills Top ISIS Cyber Warrior

U.K. hacker hit by American drone

SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JUNE 15: A U.S.-led coalition bomber aircraft and a drone flies over the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad as it is pictured from the Turkish border town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015.  Members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia took positions on the outskirts of the Islamic State stronghold of Tel Abyad. Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and jihadis.According to Turkish security officials 10,000 people to come across from Syria in last two days. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JUNE 15: A U.S.-led coalition bomber aircraft and a drone flies over the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad as it is pictured from the Turkish border town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015. Members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia took positions on the outskirts of the Islamic State stronghold of Tel Abyad. Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and jihadis.According to Turkish security officials 10,000 people to come across from Syria in last two days. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)

Dramatically shifting the types of militants it targets, the Pentagon confirmed that an American drone killed a prominent Islamic State hacker and online recruiter in Syria even though the militant, a British citizen named Junaid Hussain, had never carried out or ordered a specific attack.

His death raises questions over how the military should respond to hacking and inciting violence online, but Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that Hussain was a high-value target since he held a prominent position in the jihadi group. He “expressed a strong desire to kill Americans and recruit others to kill Americans, and so he was working to inspire lone wolf attacks here in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

Hussain, 21, was hit while traveling near Raqqa, the Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria. Ryder said that Hussain had exited the vehicle he was driving, and was the only person killed in the strike. He is the second prominent Islamic State figure to be killed in a U.S. airstrike in the past two weeks. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, a deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in near Mosul, Iraq on Aug. 18.

While living in the U.K., Hussain was part of the Team Poison hacker collective, where he unlocked and published personal information from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. He received a six-month prison sentence as a result, after which he promptly fled the U.K. for Syria. He is thought to be one of the key hackers responsible for taking over the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube pages in January, plastering pro-Islamic State messages across the sites for several hours.

He also played a role in posting the personal information of some U.S. service members earlier this year, and is believed to have sent private messages to one of the gunman who tried to attack an event in Garland, Texas, where attendees were asked to draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The gunmen were killed by a private security guard hired by event planners before they could get into the building.
Photo Credit: Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images

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