WASHINGTON — A Canadian man who narrated two infamous propaganda videos that the Islamic State used to recruit Westerners and to encourage terrorism attacks was secretly whisked to the United States to face federal prosecution in Virginia.
The man, Mohammed Khalifa, 38, a Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, was charged with material terrorism support that resulted in death, according to a criminal complaint made public on Saturday. He was captured in early 2019 by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is backed by the United States.
The militia handed over Mr. Khalifa to F.B.I. agents this week, and he was flown to the United States. Mr. Khalifa, who was born in Saudi Arabia, appears to be the first foreign fighter to be prosecuted in the United States during the Biden administration. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court early next week.
Mr. Khalifa was the voice of a 2014 ISIS video known as “Flames of War.” The unit he worked for was responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and other Western hostages.
Prosecutors said Mr. Khalifa “played an important role in the production and dissemination of ISIS propaganda across multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences.”
In a 2019 interview with The New York Times conducted from a prison in northeast Syria, Mr. Khalifa claimed he played no role in the actual killings carried out by the Islamic State.
“I was just the voice,” Mr. Khalifa said. He added in the interview that he did not regret what he had done.
Although Mr. Khalifa played down his contributions to the Islamic State in the interview, prosecutors and the F.B.I. made clear he was a “prominent figure” within the Islamic State media unit, which he joined in April 2014. An F.B.I. agent described him as “essential” because of his fluency in Arabic and English and said he was in charge of the Islamic State’s “English Media Section,” according to the criminal complaint
Prosecutors said that he assisted in the translation and narration of approximately 15 videos that were created and distributed by the Islamic State. Two of the most “influential and exceedingly violent” propaganda videos, prosecutors said, were called “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun” and “Flames of War II: Until the Final Hour.” The first was distributed in September 2014 and the second in November 2017.
According to court documents, Mr. Khalifa was engaged in fighting — not just a propagandist. In the days before his capture by the Syrian Democratic Forces, he threw “grenades against opposing combatants,” prosecutors said.
Mr. Khalifa’s arrest is the latest example of F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria pursuing Islamic State terrorists and bringing them back to Virginia to face charges despite the many complications associated with these types of international terrorism cases.
Last month, Alexanda Kotey, 37, who was part of an ISIS cell of four Britons called “the Beatles,” pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death and conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens outside the United States.
Another member of the same cell, El Shafee Elsheikh, has pleaded not guilty.
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