Narrator of ISIS videos flown to the US to face a terrorism charge


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WASHINGTON – A Canadian who shared two infamous propaganda videos used by the Islamic State to recruit and encourage terrorist attacks in the West was secretly abducted to the United States to face a federal prosecution in Virginia.

The man, Mohammed Khalifa, 38, a Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, was charged with material terrorist assistance that resulted in death, according to a criminal complaint published on Saturday. He was captured in early 2019 by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US.

The militia turned Mr. Khalifa over to FBI agents this week and he was flown to the United States. Khalifa, who was born in Saudi Arabia, appears to be the first foreign fighter to be prosecuted in the United States during the Biden administration. He is due to appear in court for the first time at the beginning of next week.

Mr. Khalifa was the voice of a 2014 ISIS video known as the Flames of War. The unit he worked for was responsible for posting such brutal footage as the beheading of American journalist James Foley and other Western hostages.

Prosecutors said Khalifa had “played an important role in the production and distribution of ISIS propaganda through multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences”.

In a 2019 New York Times interview conducted from a prison in northeast Syria, Khalifa claimed he played no role in the actual murders by the Islamic State.

“I was just the voice,” said Mr. Khalifa. In the interview, he added that he did not regret what he did.

Although Mr Khalifa downplayed his contributions to the Islamic State in the interview, prosecutors and the FBI made it clear that he was a “prominent figure” within the Islamic State media unit, which he joined in April 2014. An FBI agent described him as “essential” because of his fluency in Arabic and English and said he was responsible for the “English media section” of Islamic State, according to the criminal complaint

Prosecutors said he helped translate and narrate about 15 videos created and distributed by the Islamic State. Two of the “most influential and extremely violent” propaganda videos, according to prosecutors, were “Flames of War: The Fight Has Just Begun” and “Flames of War II: Until the Last Hour”. The first was distributed in September 2014 and the second in November 2017.

According to court documents, Mr. Khalifa was involved in fighting – not just a propagandist. In the days before his capture by the Syrian Democratic Forces, he had “thrown grenades at opposing fighters,” said the public prosecutor.

Khalifa’s arrest is the latest example of FBI agents and federal prosecutors with the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria pursuing and bringing charges against Islamic State terrorists despite the many complications associated with these type of international terrorism cases.

Last month, 37-year-old Alexanda Kotey, who was part of an ISIS cell owned by four Britons called “The Beatles,” pleaded guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to result in fatal hostage-taking and conspiracy to assassinate US citizens outside the United States.

Another member of the same cell, El Shafee Elsheikh, pleaded not guilty.

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