Raphael Hostey

Raphael Hostey, known also by the alias Abu Qaqa al-Britani, was a British propagandist, recruiter, and facilitator for ISIS who boasted of smuggling “hundreds” of people into Syria to join the terrorist group.Neil Doyle, “EXCLUSIVE: Senior British ISIS recruiter 'is a sex pest who steals girls from fellow fighters and only helps the prettiest would-be jihadi brides who contact him on Skype to go to Syria,” Daily Mail (London), June 23, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3134678/Senior-British-jihadi-recruiter-sex-pest-forces-ISIS-brides-veil-Skype-choose-prettiest-ones-steals-girls-fellow-fighters.html. Hostey was reportedly killed in Syria in the last week of April 2016. His death, as of yet unconfirmed by the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom, was confirmed by witnesses in Syria.Josie Ensor, “British jihadi recruiter reported dead in Syria drone strike,” Telegraph (London), May 2, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/02/british-jihadi-reported-to-have-been-killed-in-syria/. Hostey used a number of social media platforms—including Twitter, Tumblr, Ask.fm and Askbook—to promote and recruit for ISIS.

Prior to Hostey’s alleged death, he was reportedly part of a five-strong online recruiting team for ISIS.Neil Doyle, “EXCLUSIVE: Senior British ISIS recruiter 'is a sex pest who steals girls from fellow fighters and only helps the prettiest would-be jihadi brides who contact him on Skype to go to Syria,” Daily Mail (London), June 23, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3134678/Senior-British-jihadi-recruiter-sex-pest-forces-ISIS-brides-veil-Skype-choose-prettiest-ones-steals-girls-fellow-fighters.html. On Hostey’s Twitter account, he would often refer to himself as a co-worker of Australian operative Neil Prakash—known in ISIS circles as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi—by linking to Prakash’s social media and messaging accounts. According to leaked ISIS documents detailing information on ISIS fighters, Hostey was listed as the “sponsor” for multiple ISIS recruits, responsible for vouching on behalf of a potential ISIS recruit.Samuel Osborne, “Isis documents leak: 64 people with British connections named,” Independent (London), March 14, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-documents-leak-64-people-with-british-connections-named-a6930171.html. Among the supposed hundreds that Hostey has recruited are some standout cases. One is Jamal al-Harith, a former Guantanamo detainee who carried out a suicide bomb attack in Mosul on February 19, 2017.Robert Mendick, Patrick Foster, Christopher Hope and Josie Ensor, “Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamal Al-Harith’s links to Isil recruiter raise fears that taxpayers funded Manchester terror cell,” Telegraph (London), February 23, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/23/guantanamo-bay-detainee-jamal-al-hariths-links-isil-recruiter/. Harith had been detained in Guantanamo Bay from 2002 to 2004 after being captured by U.S. forces alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Upon his repatriation to the United Kingdom, Harith claimed $1.2 million in compensation from the British government after arguing that the government knew or was complicit in mistreatment he had experienced at Guantanamo.Robert Mendick, Patrick Foster, Christopher Hope and Josie Ensor, “Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamal Al-Harith’s links to Isil recruiter raise fears that taxpayers funded Manchester terror cell,” Telegraph (London.), February 23, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/23/guantanamo-bay-detainee-jamal-al-hariths-links-isil-recruiter/. According to Harith’s wife—who confirmed Harith’s connection to Hostey—Harith had used what remained of his government dividend to travel to Syria and fund his extremist activities.Robert Mendick, Patrick Foster, Christopher Hope and Josie Ensor, “Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamal Al-Harith’s links to Isil recruiter raise fears that taxpayers funded Manchester terror cell,” Telegraph (London), February 23, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/23/guantanamo-bay-detainee-jamal-al-hariths-links-isil-recruiter/.

Hostey also reportedly recruited the so-called “terror twins,” Salma and Zahra Halane, who traveled to Syria at age 16 in June 2014 to marry ISIS fighters.Nazia Parveen, “Small part of Manchester that has been home to 16 jihadis,” Guardian, February 25, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/25/small-part-of-manchester-that-has-been-home-to-16-jihadis. Hostey is also reportedly tied to the May 2017 Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi. Both Hostey and Abedi were originally from Manchester, England, and Abedi is said to have been a friend of Hostey.Martin Evans, Victoria Ward, Robert Mendick, Ben Farmer, Hayley Dixon and Danny Boyle, “Everything we know about Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber,” Telegraph (London), May 25, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/24/everything-know-salman-abedi-named-manchester-suicide-bomber/. Furthermore, Abedi is said to have lived within walking distance of where the Halane twins went to school before being recruited by Hostey.David Brown, Fiona Hamilton, Georgie Keate, John Simpson, and Duncan Gardham, “Salman Abedi was just a regular kid who liked cricket then it all changed,” Times (London), May 24, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/just-a-regular-kid-who-liked-cricket-then-it-all-changed-d0khjtpd6. According to reports, Hostey also recruited at least one ISIS member from the United States. On January 9, 2015, 19-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan of Chicago was indicted on charges of attempting to provide support to ISIS after being recruited by Hostey.imothy Williams, “Chicago Man Is Indicted on Charge of Trying to Aid ISIS,” New York Times, January 9, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/10/us/chicago-man-is-indicted-on-charge-of-trying-to-aid-isis.html;
Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt, “One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program,” New York Times, November 24, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/middleeast/isis-recruiters-social-media.html.

Hostey attempted to recruit for ISIS using a variety of approaches, including by providing theological justifications for ISIS activity,Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter, accessed June 29, 2015, https://twitter.com/an_Najdee rapping,Nazia Parveen, “Unmasked, jihadi chief who's a British rapper with an afro: Student revealed as 'senior commander' responsible for recruiting fellow Brits for ISIS,” Daily Mail (London), March 26, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2997904/Unmasked-jihadi-chief-s-British-rapper-afro-Student-named-senior-commander-responsible-recruiting-fellow-countrymen.html#ixzz3eSUyfmGX. appealing to video gamers,Tom Underhill and John Hall, “The rapping jihadist: 'Bad boy Abu Afro' claims he is an Isis poet with Twitter lyrics including 'Call of Duty, Drop the Fifa, and come give beyah to the Khalifah',” Mail Online, November 27, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2851938/The-rapping-jihadist-Bad-boy-Abu-Afro-claims-Isis-poet. addressing practical concerns about migration to ISIS territory,Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 25, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59677989;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 12, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59411883;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 12, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59411369.
engaging in debates with supporters of ISIS’s former ally, the Nusra Front,Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 6, 2015, 9:29 a.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/607177421259997184. and even by appearing to flirt with potential female recruits to ISIS.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 10, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59377295. In addition to recruiting ISIS members to perform hijrah (migration to ISIS-held territory), Hostey incited to violence through his social media accounts. On August 16, 2015, Hostey posted an image of Australian national security editor Paul Maley and asked whether anyone knew where Maley lived in Australia, saying that “[w]e’d like to pay him a friendly visit.”Qaqa al-Baritani, Twitter post, August 16, 2015, 12:52 a.m., https://twitter.com/Khattab10794099/status/632822343853846528. CEP flagged the account to Twitter, but the tweet in question remained active for over 24 hours. Through the two Twitter accounts, Hostey encouraged potential recruits to contact him privately on KikAbu Qaqa Britan Afro, Twitter, accessed July 8, 2015, https://twitter.com/QaqaAfro1. and Surespot,Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 8, 2015, 1:11 p.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/607958082556174336. two encrypted chat messenger services. He also used Twitter to promote his public Askbook account, where potential recruits could post anonymous questions and learn more about him.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 9, 2015, 7:44 a.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/608238355294351361.

On various platforms, “Abu Qaqa” has posted tweets that glorify acts of violence including, “We’re waiting in Raqqah to behead the PKK. We can smell their blood already. #IS ;)”Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 23, 2015, 7:48 p.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/613493982857924608. and “Do you realise the reward you get for beheading murtaddūn [apostates]?”Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 24, 2015, 5:58 p.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/613828493445591045.

When Islamists killed 12 in the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, CEP tracked Hostey’s account as he cheered on the attackers from his @Abu_Butayn account.CEP, “ISIS Supporters & Other Extremists Respond to Paris Terror Attack,” Storify, January 2015, https://storify.com/CEP/isis-supporters-respond-to-paris-terror-attack.

These violent ambitions were also depicted in rhyme through Hostey’s Abu Qaqa rapper account:

Hostey’s activity on his Twitter accounts appears to have been designed to cast a wide net to attract recruits and sympathizers. Hostey was above all a self-proclaimed facilitator who worked to bring foreign fighter to ISIS-held territory.Neil Doyle, “EXCLUSIVE: Senior British ISIS recruiter 'is a sex pest who steals girls from fellow fighters and only helps the prettiest would-be jihadi brides who contact him on Skype to go to Syria,” Daily Mail (London), June 23, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3134678/Senior-British-jihadi-recruiter-sex-pest-forces-ISIS-brides-veil-Skype-choose-prettiest-ones-steals-girls-fellow-fighters.html. On Askbook, Hostey would answer questions regarding his theological and political worldview, as well as the migration process to ISIS-held territory.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 9, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59355280. As on Twitter, Hostey propagandized for the group and directed viewers to his private messaging accounts, including Surespot and Telegram.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 27, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59713823;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 10, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59391512.

On Askbook, Hostey was often addressed by potential recruits interested in marriage.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 10, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59377295;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 10, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59377497;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 12, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59411369;
Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 12, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59411883.
At least once, Hostey appeared to flirt with an apparent recruit. In response to a post asking, “If I approach you for marriage will you take me seriously or judge a sister for approaching a brother…” Hostey alluded that he was receptive, replying, “Khadījah proposed to the Prophet (ص).”Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Askbook, June 10, 2015, http://ask-book.com/Butayn/answer/59377295.

In that vein, Hostey was allegedly accused by ISIS of stealing girls from fellow fighters and forcing female recruits to remove their veils so he could choose the prettiest ones. He was also accused of abandoning his wife and child in the United Kingdom when he came to ISIS-held territory. According to reports, Hostey had left behind his family, departing for Syria to join ISIS with two fellow students from Liverpool John Moore University after becoming radicalized by ISIS videos online. Hostey’s acquaintances, Mohammad Azzam Javeed and Anil Khalil Raoufi, were reportedly killed in 2014.Neil Doyle, “EXCLUSIVE: Senior British ISIS recruiter 'is a sex pest who steals girls from fellow fighters and only helps the prettiest would-be jihadi brides who contact him on Skype to go to Syria,” Daily Mail (London), June 23, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3134678/Senior-British-jihadi-recruiter-sex-pest-forces-ISIS-brides-veil-Skype-choose-prettiest-ones-steals-girls-fellow-fighters.html.

According to the Daily Mail, Hostey faced a punishment of flogging by ISIS officials for leaving behind his family. On one of his Twitter accounts, Hostey dismissed the Daily Mail article as inaccurate.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 23, 2015, 7:10 p.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/613484313351462912. He also appeared grateful to his friend, Neil Prakash, a.k.a., Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, for tweeting in defense of his character.Qa’qa’ al-Baritani, Twitter post, June 23, 2015, 7:10 p.m., https://twitter.com/an_Najdee/status/613484313351462912.>

In April of 2016, Hostey was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike near Mosul, Iraq.W.J. Hennigan, “U.S. military says it has killed more than 120 Islamic State leaders,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-isis-airstrikes-20160607-snap-story.html. His death was confirmed by Syrian rebel fighters on May 1, 2016, according to Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral researcher in Halifax, Nova Scotia.Josie Ensor, “British jihadi recruiter reported dead in Syria drone strike,” Telegraph (London), May 2, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/02/british-jihadi-reported-to-have-been-killed-in-syria. The drone strike that reportedly killed Hostey also killed three other Western foreign fighters who remain unidentified.Josie Ensor, “British jihadi recruiter reported dead in Syria drone strike,” Telegraph (London), May 2, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/02/british-jihadi-reported-to-have-been-killed-in-syria.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Air Force had observed Hostey for days with infrared cameras and other drone-mounted sensors before receiving the kill order.W.J. Hennigan, “U.S. military says it has killed more than 120 Islamic State leaders,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-isis-airstrikes-20160607-snap-story.html. The United States had reportedly located Hostey after being given intelligence from the Turkish government.W.J. Hennigan, “U.S. military says it has killed more than 120 Islamic State leaders,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-isis-airstrikes-20160607-snap-story.html.

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