According to State, Cuspert is “a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for ISIL,” or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (The group calls itself the Islamic State, but the US government refers to it by the acronym of its previous name, or ISIL.) “Cuspert joined ISIL in 2012 and has appeared in numerous videos on its behalf, the most recent dating from early November, in which he appears holding a severed head he claims belongs to a man executed for opposing ISIL.”
Cuspert, who is 39 years old, “spent time in jail for various offensives” in Germany before traveling to Syria. He is still “wanted by the German government on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities in his home country.”
Cuspert is also known as Abu Talha al Almani.
The State Department says that he “pledged an oath of loyalty to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and appears to serve as an ISIL recruiter with special emphasis on recruiting German speakers to ISIL.”
Foreign fighters have played a leading role in some of the Islamic State’s “most egregious crimes,” including massacres of tribesmen in eastern Syrian and Western Iraq, State notes. And “Cuspert has been a willing pitchman for ISIL atrocities.”
There has been some controversy over whether or not Cuspert is really alive. He has been reported dead in the past. Some of the confusion is owed to Cuspert’s nom de guerre, Abu Talha al Almani, which has been used by other Islamic State jihadists, including one who was killed in Syria last year.
A video was posted on YouTube earlier this month purportedly showing Cuspert calling for Germans to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State’s caliphate.
The video, which is not an official Islamic State production, can be seen above. The Long War Journal cannot independently verify that it is indeed Cuspert who is shown in the video, but it appears to be him. In addition, it is not clear when the video, which was likely captured on a cell phone, was recorded. It may not be new footage.
“Come here and enjoy life under the flag of tawhid [or the oneness of God],” the man identified as Cuspert says, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. “Feel the freedom. And, inshallah, if you come here with honest intentions, you will receive shahada [martyrdom] and then eternal Paradise.” Cuspert adds, “Do not miss it, rather get a ticket, come by train, come by plane, come by bicycle, come by car, just come.”
Cuspert publicly pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State (or ISIL) in April 2014. Since then he has appeared in a number of propaganda videos and photos online. For example, he was pictured at the Mosul Dam in Iraq after the Islamic State overran the city last summer.