18 October 1975 (age 41)
Denis Mamadou Gerhard Cuspert (born 18 October 1975), also known by his stage name Deso Dogg and his nom de guerre Abu Talha al-Almani, is an Afro-German member of the Islamic State and former rapper.
Cuspert ended his rap career in 2010, converted to Islam and took the name Abou Maleeq. Cuspert left Germany in 2012 for Egypt and eventually Syria, where he fought with jihadist anti-government forces in the Syrian Civil War, under the nom de guerre of Abu Talha Al-Almani (meaning Abu Talha the German). He was wounded during fighting in the northern-Syrian town of Azaz in an air-strike conducted by the Syrian Army. In 2014 he gave his oath of allegiance to Islamist-Jihadi group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The United States Department of State added Cuspert to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 9 February 2015, and the United Nations Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee designated him on 11 February 2015.
Early life and education
Cuspert was born in Kreuzberg, Berlin on October 18, 1975. His father, Richard Luc-Giffard, was a Ghanaian national who had been deported before Cuspert was born. His mother, Sigrid Cuspert, was a white German. He was later raised in Charlottenburg, Moabit and Schöneberg. His mother remarried an African-American U.S. Army officer with whom Cuspert had ongoing conflicts. He had a troubled youth and spent some time in a juvenile detention center. In 1995 he began a rapping career with varying success, as he got increasingly involved in street trouble and eventually in crime.
In 2002 he adopted the name Deso Dogg and began recording with the German rapper Charnell, a gangster rapper from Berlin. Deso Dogg was, at that time, under detention in an open prison system for minor offenders. By mid-2004, he was repeatedly arrested for various new offenses, including violations of the German Opium Act. Consequently, his probation was revoked and Deso Dogg had to serve time in the Tegel Prison. He was in a gang called the "36 Boys" made up primarily of first-generation Turkish and Arab immigrants. The 36 Boys got in violent confrontations with neo-Nazi gangs. “I always fought for 36,” Cuspert told a Berlin reporter named Robert Rigney. “I bled for 36. I was stabbed for 36. Everything.”
After his release from detention, he worked with Montana of Montana Beatz and with the producer Dean Dawson of Streetlife Entertainment. Additionally he took part in the DMX Tour in 2005. After suffering from psychological problems, he was replaced on the tour by D-Flame. He admitted that his situation was so unstable, he risked reverting to prison or worse, adding that he realized he needed to change. He later rejoined the DMX Tour in 2006 after being given one more chance by the tour organizers.
He quit Streetlife label in 2007, reportedly to keep his artistic freedom. In September 2007, he announced working on a double album titled Alle Augen Auf Mich (meaning all eyes on me). He also announced that he would quit after this project because he felt disappointed and betrayed by many people in the German rap scene. The launching of the album was repeatedly delayed to be ultimately released in November 2009. In August 2008, he appeared in an episode of the television series Der Bluff playing a student who turns into a gangsta rapper. In 2010 his song "Willkommen in meiner Welt" (meaning Welcome to my world) was used in the ARD film courage to Zivilcourage (meaning moral courage).
Conversion to Islam and legal problems in Germany
Following a near death experience after a car crash, and affected by Pierre Vogel, a former professional boxer and converted Islamist, he ended his rap career in 2010 declaring his own religious conversion to Islam. He declared his decision to convert in a public video. He became a member of a radical Islamic group called Die Wahre Religion (meaning The True Religion). He also said he was dropping his earlier name Deso Dogg in favor of the Islamic name Abou Maleeq.
After his conversion he became a vocal Islamic music "nasheed" singer, singing in German. Controversies ensued as he declared public support for Islamic "Mujahideen" forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Chechnya, describing Berlin as eine weitere Kuffar-Metropole ("yet another kuffar (infidel) metropolis").
In April 2011, the Berlin public prosecutor brought charges of illegal possession of weapons against him after Cuspert appeared as "Abou Maleeq" in a YouTube video brandishing arms. During a house raid, 16 cartridges of 9 mm caliber and .22 were found on the premises. On 18 August 2011 he was found guilty and fined a monetary fine of 1800 euros without any jail term being specified. German officials remained vigilant however, claiming his videos and speeches contained inflammatory rhetoric that promoted violence. Guido Steinberg, an Islamic studies expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs think-tank stated that Dogg's music "support a radicalisation process." The public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) said in a report that the "Islamist radical Denis C. alias "Abu Maleeq" was being investigated for sedition". The popular Report Mainz news magazine on German ARD TV highlighted his videos, including one publicly praising Osama bin Laden in one of his nasheeds. Abou Maleeq announced he was moving from Berlin to Bonn. But his nasheeds came under further scrutiny when Arid Uka, a Muslim Kosovo Albanian from Frankfurt am Main, revealed after assassinating two U.S. Airmen and severely wounding two others in an operation in Frankfurt Airport, that he was greatly influenced in his actions by Abou Maleeq's works and that he was a great fan of the nasheed singer.
Denis Cuspert became involved with the Egyptian Austrian-born al-Qaeda affiliate Mohamed Mahmoud (also known as Abu Usama Al-Gharib), who had founded the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) as well as the militant Salafist group Millatu Ibrahim, later banned by the German authorities. German broadcaster ZDF also received footage, apparently made by Cuspert, in which he threatened to wage Jihad in Germany and warned of attacks. According to German security authorities, Cuspert managed to leave to Egypt, despite heavy observation, to join the remnants of Millatu Ibrahim to try to establish a German Salafist colony that sought to impose Sharia law in Germany. According to the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, while in Egypt Cuspert underwent firearms training in a militant camp, before travelling to Libya for additional training.
In August 2013 he appeared in a video fighting alongside the militant group Junud al-Sham against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in the Syrian Civil War. He began using the nom de guerre of Abu Talha Al-Almani (Abu Talha the German). In September 2013 Cuspert was reportedly injured in an air strike in Syria. Abu Talha continued to post video footage and messages online in German about his activities, including his advocacy for active participation in jihad and for enactment of sharia law.
In November 2013 German authorities issued a warning, emanating from its Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) and made public through the Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), about a possible attack by Cuspert against German institutions working in Turkey. The warning published by German national daily Die Welt stated that "Cuspert could use an explosive-laden vehicle". In a video posted online, Denis Cuspert denied the allegations, adding that Germany was not his "objective in terms of attacks". On May 1st 2017 it was unveiled that Daniela Greene, a former FBI translator had gone rogue and married Abu Talha al-Almani. Greene was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
By late 2013, Cuspert had left Junud al-Sham and joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He reportedly took part in the First Battle of the Shaer gas field in July 2014 with ISIL forces against the Syrian Armed Forces.
In the summer of 2014, an FBI translator who had been investigating Cuspert, traveled to Syria in order to marry Cuspert. This occurred without knowledge or authorization of her superiors. She returned to the U.S. a few months later, confessed, and cooperated with authorities, in return for a light two-year prison sentence.
In November 2014, a video was released by the activist group "Deir Ezzore Is Being Slaughtered Silently”, which showed ISIL members shooting and beheading a number of unarmed men, and Cuspert holding a severed head. The video was believed to be from an August 2014 massacre against prisoners from the Sunni Arab Al-Shaitat tribe who had fought against ISIL.
Reports of death
In April 2014, a number of international media outlets ran erroneous reports based on Islamist online sources that he was killed on 20 April 2014 as a result of infighting amongst the Jihadi groups fighting in Syria, after the rival Al-Nusra Front launched a suicide attack against an ISIL post. However, German newspaper Die Welt quoted other foreign fighters as denying Cuspert's death and attributing the confusion to the death of another ISIL member who also used the alias of Abu Talha Al-Almani.
On 16 October 2015, the US Department of Defense informed media outlets that Cuspert had been killed by a US airstrike near Raqqa, Syria. However, the Pentagon later assessed that Cuspert had survived the strike. On August 2016 the Pentagon says that it was mistaken: Cuspert had survived the strike near the town of Raqqa.
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