A Canadian man who narrated two infamous propaganda videos that the Islamic State group used to recruit Westerners and to encourage terrorism attacks was secretly whisked to the United States to face federal prosecution in Virginia.
The man, Mohammed Khalifa, 38, a Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State group, was charged with material terrorism support that resulted in death, according to a criminal complaint made public Saturday. He was captured in early 2019 by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is backed by the United States.
The militia handed over Khalifa 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 scheduled to make an initial appearance in court early next week.
“Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” said Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Parekh said Khalifa “promoted the terrorist group, furthered its worldwide recruitment efforts and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrific murders and indiscriminate cruelty” of the Islamic State group.
Khalifa was the voice of a 2014 Islamic State video known as “Flames of War.” The unit he worked for was responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of American journalist James Foley and other Western hostages.
Prosecutors said Khalifa “played an important role in the production and dissemination of ISIS propaganda across multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences.”
In a 2019 interview with The New York Times conducted from a prison in northeast Syria, Khalifa said he played no role in the actual killings carried out by the Islamic State group.
“I was just the voice,” Khalifa said. He added in the interview that he did not regret what he had done.
According to court documents, Khalifa was not just a propagandist but engaged in fighting. In the days before his capture by the Syrian Democratic Forces, he threw “grenades against opposing combatants,” prosecutors said.
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