A US citizen and computer wiz raised in a wealthy Boston family is allegedly one of the masterminds behind the Islamic State propaganda being posted on social networks. It is aimed at recruiting new followers and riling up enemies of the militant group.
Ahmad Abousamra, who has dual US and Syrian citizenship, is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. Last year, the government promised a reward of $50,000 for information about the fugitive, who has been on the run for several years.
The 32-year-old tech-savvy terrorist is now also suspected of being among the architects of the social media strategy for the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL), law enforcement officials told ABC News.
Abousamra was born in France in 1981, but grew up in Stoughton, a prosperous suburb in Boston. The son of an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, he went to a private Catholic school and transferred for to Stoughton High School for his senior year. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a degree in computer science, according to the Boston Herald, and worked at a telecommunications company.
However, it now appears that Abousamra later decided to use his professional skills to help the Islamic State (IS) spread its message.
Though the Sunni jihadist group wants to impose harsh medieval order in the territories it controls, it is not opposed to using modern technology to achieve its goal. In its propaganda campaign, the Islamic State has widely used apps, social media networks, and YouTube.
The extremists have released shocking videos, including those claiming to show the beheadings of two American journalists – Boston-based James Foley and former New Hampshire student Steven Sotloff.
“ISIS understands very well that in order for an act of terrorism to be effective, it needs to actually terrorize people,” Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) said, as quoted by ABC. “The act of communication that follows the act of violence is almost as important as the act of violence itself.” In Neumann’s opinion, the Islamic State’s success in online propaganda is to some extent due to its English-speaking supporters with computer skills.