The months-long manhunt for French-born Rachid Kassim ended one chilly morning early this year when a drone-launched missile destroyed his battered white pickup truck as it motored through the besieged Iraqi city of Mosul.
The 29-year-old former rapper had cast a grim shadow in international counter-terrorism circles. He spoke fluent French, once beheaded a man in an online video and allegedly helped organize or encourage nine terrorist plots — nearly all unsuccessful — in France last year.
The Feb. 8 drone strike notched a victory for a U.S.-led effort that seeks to silence Islamic State operatives who use social media, encrypted messaging and other online tools to reach disaffected Muslims overseas and to launch what counter-terrorism experts now call “remote-controlled” attacks.
In addition to Kassim, the French-speaking plotter killed by drone, they include Abu Muhammad Adnani, head of external terrorism plots, who was killed by an armed drone Aug. 30.
Eight days later, Abu Mohamed Furqan, who oversaw production of propaganda videos and created the group’s monthly online magazine Rumiyah, was also killed by a drone strike in Raqqah, Islamic State’s self-declared capital in Syria.
In December, another airstrike in Raqqah killed three men said to have played a role in the November 2015 assaults that killed 130 people in Paris. Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who helped organize the New Year’s Day attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, that left 39 dead, was killed in April in eastern Syria.
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