Ahmad Abousamra

Ahmad Abousamra, also known as Abu Sulayman Ash-Shami, was a Boston-raised jihadist and a key member of ISIS. He reportedly helped to disseminate the terror group’s viral videos and to create its English-language propaganda magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah.Michael Zennie, “The American computer wiz running brutally effective ISIS social media campaign: College-educated son of top Boston doctor is on FBI Most Wanted list,” Daily Mail (London), September 4, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2743737/The-American-computer-wiz-running-ISIS-brutally-effective-social-media-campaign-College-educated-son-Boston-doctor-FBI-Most-Wanted-list.html;
“Among the Believers Are Men,” Rumiyah, April 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rome-magazine-8.pdf.
Abousamra reportedly died in a January 2017 airstrike outside of Raqqa, Syria, according to his eulogy in the April 2017 issue of Rumiyah.“Among the Believers Are Men,” Rumiyah, April 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rome-magazine-8.pdf. Before his reported death, Abousamra is believed to have lived in Aleppo, Syria, with his wife, extended family, and at least one child.“Wanted Fugitive Ahmad Abousamra Added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List,” FBI Boston, December 18, 2013, http://www.fbi.gov/boston/press-releases/2013/wanted-fugitive-ahmad-abousamra-added-to-the-fbis-most-wanted-terrorists-list.

Abousamra was born in France in 1981 and raised in an upscale suburb in Boston, Massachusetts.Michael Zennie, “The American computer wiz running brutally effective ISIS social media campaign: College-educated son of top Boston doctor is on FBI Most Wanted list,” Daily Mail (London), September 4, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2743737/The-American-computer-wiz-running-ISIS-brutally-effective-social-media-campaign-College-educated-son-Boston-doctor-FBI-Most-Wanted-list.html. Growing up, Abousamra worshipped at the Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the same mosque frequented by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “Lady al-Qaeda” Aafia Siddiqui, banned Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abousamra’s co-conspirator Tarek Mehanna, and other convicted supporters of terrorism, including the mosque’s founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi.Paul Sperry, “Boston bombers’ mosque tied to ISIS,” New York Post, September 7, 2014, http://nypost.com/2014/09/07/jihadi-behind-beheading-videos-linked-to-notorious-us-mosque/.

Abousamra attended a Catholic high school in Boston and then Northeastern University, graduating with a degree related to computer science.Michael Zennie, “The American computer wiz running brutally effective ISIS social media campaign: College-educated son of top Boston doctor is on FBI Most Wanted list,” Daily Mail (London), September 4, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2743737/The-American-computer-wiz-running-ISIS-brutally-effective-social-media-campaign-College-educated-son-Boston-doctor-FBI-Most-Wanted-list.html. While in college, Abousamra took multiple trips to Pakistan and Yemen where, according to the FBI, he “allegedly attempted to obtain military training for the purpose of killing American soldiers overseas.”“Wanted Fugitive Ahmad Abousamra Added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List,” FBI Boston, December 18, 2013, http://www.fbi.gov/boston/press-releases/2013/wanted-fugitive-ahmad-abousamra-added-to-the-fbis-most-wanted-terrorists-list. In April 2002, he briefly traveled to Pakistan to allegedly attend a terrorist training camp.“United States of America v. Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra Superseding Indictment,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 5, 2009, 4-5. Nearly two years later, on February 1, 2004, Abousamra and co-conspirator Tarek Mehanna left the United States for an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen. After two weeks at the Yemeni camp, Abousamra traveled to Iraq to fight with al-Qaeda in Iraq. He returned to the United States approximately six months later in August 2004. Michele McPhee and Brian Ross, “Official: American May Be Key in ISIS Social Media Blitz,” ABC News, September 3, 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/official-american-may-be-key-in-isis-social-media-blitz/;
Paul Cruickshank, “ISIS lifts veil on American at heart of its propaganda machine,” CNN, April 7, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/06/middleeast/isis-american-propaganda-editor/;
“United States of America v. Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra Superseding Indictment,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 5, 2009, 4-5.

In December 2006, agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned Abousamra, but did not charge him after he provided false information about the purpose of his 2004 trip to Yemen. Abousamra told the FBI that he had gone to Yemen to look at Arabic schools but did not like them and returned after a week. Abousamra traveled to Syria soon after the December 2006 FBI interview.Michele McPhee and Brian Ross, “Official: American May Be Key in ISIS Social Media Blitz,” ABC News, September 3, 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/09/official-american-may-be-key-in-isis-social-media-blitz/;
Michael Zennie, “The American computer wiz running brutally effective ISIS social media campaign: College-educated son of top Boston doctor is on FBI Most Wanted list,” Daily Mail (London), September 4, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2743737/The-American-computer-wiz-running-ISIS-brutally-effective-social-media-campaign-College-educated-son-Boston-doctor-FBI-Most-Wanted-list.html;
“United States of America v. Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra Superseding Indictment,” U.S. Department of Justice, November 5, 2009, 26.

In 2009, a U.S. district court indicted Abousamra on nine terrorism-related charges and issued a federal warrant for his arrest. “Wanted Fugitive Ahmad Abousamra Added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List,” FBI Boston, December 18, 2013, http://www.fbi.gov/boston/press-releases/2013/wanted-fugitive-ahmad-abousamra-added-to-the-fbis-most-wanted-terrorists-list. In 2013, the FBI added Abousamra to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists and offered a $50,000 reward for his capture.“Wanted Fugitive Ahmad Abousamra Added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List,” FBI Boston, December 18, 2013, http://www.fbi.gov/boston/press-releases/2013/wanted-fugitive-ahmad-abousamra-added-to-the-fbis-most-wanted-terrorists-list.

After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Abousamra joined the fighting alongside the Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). According to ISIS’s eulogy, Abousamra left the Nusra Front to join ISIS after criticizing Nusra leader Abu Muhammad al-Golani for betraying ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Abousamra initially sought to carry out a suicide attack for ISIS, but was convinced by fellow member Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Furqan to reconsider. Furqan instead introduced Abousamra to ISIS’s media department.“Among the Believers Are Men,” Rumiyah, April 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rome-magazine-8.pdf.

Utilizing his fluency in both Arabic and English, as well as his technology-related college degree, Abousamra took on a leadership role translating ISIS’s propaganda into English. He helped Furqan organize ISIS’s foreign language team and advised on the creation of the group’s Dabiq and Rumiyah magazines. He became Dabiq’s editor and also guided the terror group in releasing viral videos online.“Among the Believers Are Men,” Rumiyah, April 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rome-magazine-8.pdf. In June 2015, the Iraqi government referred to Abousamra as “an ISIS filmmaking expert” when erroneously reporting his death in an airstrike in Iraq.“Mass. man accused of aiding ISIS killed in Iraq, reports say,” Boston Globe, June 3, 2015, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/03/mass-man-accused-aiding-isis-killed-iraq-reports-say/MABevJO6Pm4beu1B8M1yHI/story.html.

Soon after ISIS released the first issue of Rumiyah in September 2016, Abousamra’s mentor, Furqan, died in an airstrike in Raqqa. According to ISIS’s April 2017 issue of Rumiyah, Abousamra was so distraught by Furqan’s death that he insisted on becoming a frontline soldier for ISIS. Abousamra then died in January 2017 when a missile struck the house where he was staying near Raqqa. According to Rumiyah, Abousamra left “his image imprinted in the minds of his brothers, sitting at his computer in the darkness of night and the early hours of morning, researching an issue, reviewing a book, or writing an article.”“Among the Believers Are Men,” Rumiyah, April 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/rome-magazine-8.pdf.

 
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