Mohammed Khalifa, a 38-year-old Canadian citizen of Saudi origin, was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2019 following an exchange of fire in which he threw grenades. Khalifa was recently transferred to the FBI, according to a DOJ statement.
The Interim US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Raj Parekh, called Khalifa “the voice behind the violence.”
“Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating and promoting ISIS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, continued his recruitment efforts around the world, and broadened the reach of videos that glorified ISIS’s gruesome killings and indiscriminate cruelty, ”Parekh said in the statement.
Khalifa is said to have worked with the terrorist organization for around six years after traveling to Syria in 2013 to become a foreign fighter and is said to have worked in its English media section, narrating and translating for propaganda purposes. In total, Khalifa translated and narrated around 15 ISIS videos, including two widely viewed violent videos titled “Flames of War,” the Justice Department said. He admitted to the FBI in March 2019 that he was the narrator of the 2014 and 2017 “Flames of War” videos, according to the criminal complaint that was unsealed on Saturday.
Khalifa also reportedly recounted a series of videos that encourage “potential recruits to join ISIS and carry out terrorist attacks against non-Muslims,” the complaint says.
“While many Americans are aware of the brutal and violent crimes committed by many ISIS actors, ISIS’s efforts to radicalize individuals to travel to Syria and commit violence on its behalf were equally horrific, ”said Steven D’Antuono, a senior FBI official. Washington Field Office said.
CNN has contacted the Canadian government for comment.
“I thought if they knew I was going to go and fight in Syria, they would try to arrest me,” Khalifa said in the interview, according to the criminal complaint against him. “I had a normal life in Canada. I was doing very well for myself and decided to give it up knowing where I was coming from, knowing what I was sacrificing in the process.”
He had told his family he was going to Egypt, but later admitted that he wanted to “join the mujahedin fighting against Bashar and the Syrian army,” federal officials said, citing an email sent by Khalifa in 2013.
This story has been updated with additional information.