A Saudi-born Canadian who narrated propaganda videos for the Islamic State group and is charged with conspiring to help the terrorist organization has been brought to Virginia to be prosecuted.
Mohammed Khalifa was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham's (ISIS) English Media Section and served as an ISIS fighter. He was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, resulting in death, for which he may face life in prison.
The criminal complaint was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Saturday.
Voice Behind the Violence
The acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh, called Khalifa the "voice behind the violence."
"As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence," said Parekh.
"Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating, and advancing ISIS's online propaganda, 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 ISIS."
Who is Mohammed Khalifa?
Khalifa traveled to Syria in the spring of 2013 with the intent of becoming a foreign fighter. He joined ISIS in or around November 2013 and swore allegiance to then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In early 2014, he was recruited to join ISIS's Media Bureau due in part to his linguistic capabilities as a fluent English and Arabic speaker.
US prosecutors say that Khalifa was a prominent figure within the ISIS Media Bureau, the "Diwan of Central Media," and assisted in the translation and narration of approximately 15 ISIS recruitment videos, including two of the group's most influential efforts at luring Westerners: "Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun," in 2014, and "Flames of War II: Until the Final Hour," in 2017.
These videos, containing English narration by Khalifa, were part of an ISIS media campaign promoting violence committed against U.S. citizens and other countries' citizens in order to incite further violence against the United States, allied nations, and their citizens.
The videos depict glamorized portrayals of ISIS and its fighters as well as scenes of violence, including depictions of unarmed prisoners being executed.
Khalifa also allegedly narrated a series of recruitment videos titled "Inside the Khilafah" that depicted various aspects of daily life within the Islamic State and featured ISIS members encouraging potential recruits to join ISIS and conduct terrorist attacks against non-Muslims.
One video includes a voice recording of the Pulse Nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, pledging his allegiance to ISIS during the horrific 2016 mass shooting in Orlando.
Khalifa Says He Has No Regrets
He was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January 2019 and recently transferred to FBI custody. The FBI said that, at one point, he threw a grenade onto the roof of a house where Syrian Democratic Forces soldiers were positioned.
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.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted.