“Voice behind violence”. Narrator of ISIS videos in custody

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A Canadian citizen suspected of narrating Islamic State propaganda videos in English is now in FBI custody and could face life in prison.

Mohammed Khalifa, now 38, was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria in 2019 and recently transferred into the custody of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and will face trial in Virginia.

“Mohammed Khalifa, a Canadian citizen born in Saudi Arabia who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and in the English Press Section of al-Sham’s (ISIS) and who served as an ISIS fighter, was accused of conspiring to provide support material to ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death“, explains the US Department of Justice, in a statement.

According to Washington Post, Khalifa started as a fighter for the terrorist organization, but ended up lead English language communication from the terrorist group, engaging in the translation and dissemination of propaganda, including videos, audio and an online magazine — before joining Islamic State, the Canadian was an information technology specialist in Toronto.

Khalifa, born in Saudi Arabia, will have narrated more than a dozen ISIS recruiting videos, including two of the most influential: “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun”, in 2014, and “Flames of War II: Until the Last Minute”, in 2017.

In the videos, according to court records, the Canadian encourages supporters to join the Islamic state abroad and “conduct terrorist attacks against non-Muslims”, writes the CNN.

Some videos even show brutal executions, including of Syrian prisoners forced to dig your own graves and of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive.

“As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, he was also the voice behind the violence“, said Raj Parekh, US Interim Attorney, quoted in the Justice Department statement.

“Through his alleged leadership role in translating, narrating and advancing ISIS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, promoted its recruitment efforts worldwide, and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrible murders and indiscriminate cruelty“, continued.

By the time the videos “Flames of War” were released, American authorities did not know who owned the voice narrating them, but the public helped to identify it and, after being captured, Khalifa identified himself to various media as the mysterious propagandist.

“I had a normal life in Canada, I was doing really well, and I decided to give up knowing what I was sacrificing. It was a decision I made and I remained faithful to it,” he said, speaking to CBC.

Amarnath Amarasingam, an extremism researcher at Queen’s University in Canada, was the first to identify Khalifa as the voice of violent ISIS videos.

People said he was crazy, Amarasingam recalled, when he said the man who called himself Abu Ridwan al-Kanadi sounded “distinctly like the people I grew up with in Toronto.”

“He is a significant person, in that he was the voice we heard” in the Islamic State media.

If found guilty, Mohammed Khalifa could spend the rest of his days in prison.

4345df24605d9c2401641d8a309e0019 "Voice behind violence". Narrator of ISIS videos in custody Sofia Teixeira Santos, ZAP //