Canadian ISIS fighter sent to US on terrorism charges, faces possible life sentence

 A Canadian allegedly deemed "a leading figure" in propagating ISIS media faces terrorism charges in the US. The FBI flew Mohamed Khalifa from Kurdish-occupied northeast Syria Saturday to the eastern US, where he now stands trial.

They accused Khalifa of being a fighter and "lead translator in ISIS's propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on multiple violent ISIS recruitment videos." He admitted to narrating ISIS execution videos, notably the gory 2014 production Flames of War.

According to the US indictment, Khalifa travelled to Syria in early 2013 and joined ISIS that November, pledging allegiance to its then-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, reported Global News. ISIS recruited him into their media wing in 2014.

The US Justice Department alleged a "primary focus" of the propaganda produced by Khalifa was enticing others to travel to ISIS-controlled territory to join the group or to conduct attacks in the West.

As a "prominent figure" in the ISIS Media Bureau, called the "Diwan of Central Media," the US alleged he produced 15 videos, including Flames of War and Flames of War II.

He also narrated "a series of recruitment videos entitled '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."

"The narration in one of these videos encourages recruits unable to leave their home countries to join ISIS in conducting attacks in countries outside the Islamic State, displaying footage of ISIS attacks in Europe, including attacks in Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and Nice, France.

"The video also includes a voice recording of Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub mass shooter, declaring his allegiance to ISIS during the June 12, 2016, terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida."

As a prominent member of their propaganda wing, Khalifa supposedly produced videos showcasing the gruesome beheadings of US hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig. He was formally charged with conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. And if convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.

"It's very interesting that the US is going forward with this case and not Canada," said Queen's University professor Amarnath Amarasingam, who previously interviewed Khalifa along with Global News in 2019.

"[He] is probably our easiest case. There are literally hundreds of hours of his voice recorded in ISIS media," said Amarasingam. "Cases against other prisoners are slightly more difficult."

"I suppose the US sees him as important for reasons we probably don't know yet."

The former Toronto resident is the first Canadian ISIS member detained by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to be brought to the US to face justice.

The Trudeau Liberals refused to bring Canadian ISIS members like Khalifa home for prosecution, leading to an outcry and filed a court application from eleven Canadian families demanding their repatriation.

"I'm glad the US had the political courage to do what the Canadian government did not," said national security law expert Leah West, who interviewed Khalifa along with Global News in 2019.

"He is a Canadian. He left from Canada. It should be the responsibility of the Canadian government to hold him accountable for his crimes," she said. "But the Canadian government has repeatedly proven unwilling to hold Canadians who joined ISIS accountable for their crimes by refusing to repatriate them."



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