Narrator of IS propaganda videos charged in US

Narrator of IS propaganda videos charged in US thumbnail

Image source, ISD

Image caption, Thousands of videos, graphics and other images have been collected together to form a growing propaganda archive

A Canadian citizen who allegedly narrated violent propaganda videos for the Islamic State group (IS) has been charged in the US.

Saudi-born Mohammed Khalifa is accused of being “the voice behind the violence” by providing English narration on some 15 videos.

Many of them encouraged supporters to join IS, while some showed the “brutal execution” of prisoners and hostages.

If convicted, the 38-year-old could face life in prison.

Mr Khalifa will appear before a US court next week on charges of providing “material support to a terrorist organisation, resulting in death”. He denies the charges.

Prosecutors say he was also an IS fighter, and during one conflict shortly before being captured, threw a grenade at opposing forces.

“Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating, and advancing IS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group… and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrific murders and indiscriminate cruelty of IS,” Raj Parekh, acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement.

Among the videos are two IS productions which promoted violence against foreign citizens, showed various IS attacks, and the deaths of unarmed prisoners.

Another video includes a voice recording of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in the Pulse Nightclub attack in Florida in 2016, swearing allegiance to IS.

Mr Khalifa left Canada in 2013 to join IS in Syria where he became a key member of the group’s propaganda team, the US justice department said.

He allegedly served in a number of prominent roles before becoming its lead translator due to his English and Arabic language skills.

By translating the videos into English, he played an integral role in the recruitment and radicalisation of Westerners which caused the deaths of numerous people at the hands of IS, prosecutors say.

Mohammed Khalifa was captured in January 2019 during a firefight between IS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a US-backed Kurdish-led militia which spearheaded the fight against IS in northwest Syria.

He was later handed over to the FBI.

In a newspaper interview after his capture, he said he had been a low-level fighter and “just the voice” of IS. He insisted that he had played no role in filming or carrying out the gruesome scenes he narrated.

Media caption, WATCH: Islamic State group’s online propaganda library

Online videos showing beheadings and other atrocities were key a feature of IS’s worldwide recruitment drive as the group extended its reach in Syria and Iraq.

But the propaganda effort dwindled as the militants began to lose territory from 2017.

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