Mohammed Khalifa, 38, who is a Canadian citizen, was part of the Islamic State’s media ministry and narrated two propaganda videos used to lure people from the west to join the terrorist organisation, the US government said. The videos were also deployed to urge others to engage in terrorism. Prosecutors said he helped with the translation and narration of around 15 videos in total.
A criminal complaint released on Saturday by the Justice Department stated that Khalifa has been charged with material terrorism support leading to death.
Khalifa was captured in 2019 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia led by Kurdish fighters with the support of the US.
The militia turned Khalifa over to the FBI earlier this week. The 38-year-old was born in Saudi Arabia and is believed to be the first foreign fighter to face prosecution in the US under the Biden administration.
His first court appearance is scheduled for early next week. Khalifa was the narrator of a 2014 video titled Flames of War and his unit also published footage of the beheading of US freelance reporter James Foley and other western hostages.
Khalifa “played an important role in the production and dissemination of Isis propaganda across multiple media platforms targeting western audiences,” according to prosecutors.
The terrorist told The New York Times in 2019 that he had no hand in the violence committed by Isis, saying that he “was just the voice”. But he also said he had no regrets stemming from his actions.
Prosecutors and the FBI say that he was a “prominent figure” in the media ministry that he joined in April 2014.
One FBI agent said that he was “essential” because he spoke both Arabic and English. The criminal complaint states that Khalifa was in charge of the group’s “English Media Section”.
Court documents say that Khalifa engaged in fighting – throwing “grenades against opposing combatants” before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to prosecutors.
Alexanda Kotey, 37, who was part of the Isis cell of four Britons nicknamed “the Beatles”, pleaded guilty in early September to federal charges of hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit murder against US citizens abroad, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Acting United States attorney and one of the lead prosecutors on the case, Raj Parekh, said in a statement: “Alexanda Kotey, an avowed member of Isis, pleaded guilty today to all charges that were brought against him in the United States for his participation in a horrific hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens, as well as the deaths of British and Japanese nationals, in Syria. He has agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
“The four American victims in this case – James Wright Foley, Kayla Jean Mueller, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig – were journalists and humanitarian aid workers, pillars of courage and kindness on the front lines of a perilous conflict,” he added. “They risked their lives to shine a light on the darkest corners of the globe and to help others most in need. The values that they personified to the very end are the antithesis of those embodied by the terrorist organisation that murdered them.”
The mother of Foley, Diane Foley, said in a statement that she was grateful “to all involved in apprehending Alexanda Kotey, investigating his brutal crimes against humanity, and making the strong case for his direct culpability” in the death of her son as well as others.
“As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for Isis on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” Mr Parekh said in a statement on Saturday. “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. [The office of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia] and our partners have a long history of prosecuting national security cases, and we are honoured to serve once again in this effort to seek justice on behalf of the United States and the victims of Isis’s brutality.”
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