Rachid Kassim, an Islamic State recruiter known for his social-media presence, failed music career and links to high-profile terrorist attacks in Europe was targeted by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, the Pentagon said Friday.
Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the strike occurred near the Iraqi city of Mosul within the past three days.
“We are currently assessing the results of that strike,” Rankine-Galloway said. Citing French police sources, the Telegraph reported that Kassim was killed in the strike Wednesday.
Kassim, a 29-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, spent most of his childhood in France and tried his hand at rapping before moving to Syria in 2015 and joining the Islamic State. In an interview with Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, Kassim said he chose the rapper name L’Oranais to pay tribute to the Algerian city of Oran, a place where he spent a portion of his youth.
Once in the self-declared caliphate, Kassim used the encrypted messaging application Telegram to inspire homegrown attacks in Europe. Kassim was reportedly linked to the slayings of a French couple in June and a French priest in July, as well as a failed attempt to detonate a car full of explosives outside of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in September.
In his interview with Amarasingam, Kassim said he would continue to inspire attacks as long as countries such as France and the United States continue to strike the Islamic State.
“France is targeting hospitals, targeting civilians,” he said, “They suffer every day under France and Europe’s bombardments. Violence did not originate from us. France and the USA started the killings. Once they stop, we’ll stop.”
Six days after Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel killed 86 people by plowing a box truck into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, Kassim appeared in an Islamic State recruiting video. In the video, he threatens France’s president, François Hollande, and beheads two captives.
The Pentagon’s announcement of the airstrike that might have killed Kassim came just hours after French police announced they had arrested four people involved in a suspected terrorist plot in Paris. The suspects were said to be in the process of making explosives of the same type used in the Brussels airport and subway bombings that killed 32 in March.
More than 200 people have been killed in France by Islamic State-inspired attacks since the beginning of 2015. The deadliest attack was in November 2015, when teams of gunmen detonated suicide bombs and opened fire in downtown Paris, killing 130 and wounding more than 300.