A prominent Islamic State media figure and foreign fighter has been charged in US federal court in Virginia with conspiracy to provide material aid to a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death, federal officials said on Saturday.
Federal officials said Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen who was a key figure in the Islamic State of Iraq, was captured overseas by Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2019. He was recently transferred to FBI custody, at which point he was first brought to the Eastern District of Virginia.
“As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but was also the voice behind the violence,” said Raj Parekh, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Through his alleged leading role in translating, describing, and advancing ISIS’ online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, spearheaded recruitment efforts around the world, and glorified ISIS’ horrific killings and indiscriminate brutality. Expanded the reach of video.
Officials said Khalifa, 38, served in key roles within the Islamic State in 2013 and continued until being captured by the SDF in January 2019 following a gunfight between Islamic State fighters and the SDF.
In addition to reportedly serving as an Islamic State fighter, Khalifa reportedly served as a key translator in the group’s propaganda output and as an English-speaking narrator on several violent recruitment videos.
2013 Tour of Syria
The complaint in federal court also alleges that Khalifa traveled to Syria in the spring of 2013 with the intention of becoming a foreign fighter and eventually joining the Islamic State. He joined the group in or around November 2013 and took an oath of allegiance to then Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In early 2014, he was recruited to join the group’s media bureau, partly due to his linguistic abilities as a fluent English and Arabic speaker.
Prosecutors say Khalifa played a key role in promoting and spreading Islamic State across multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences. They focused primarily on enticing supporters to travel to Islamic State-controlled areas to engage in attacks in the West, including the United States, or to conduct attacks on behalf of the group. According to the complaint, he also actively participated in armed hostilities on behalf of the Islamic State.
The complaint alleges that Khalifa assisted in the translation and narration of about 15 total videos created and distributed by Islamic State. The complaint states that the presentations narrated by Khalifa included two of the most influential and highly violent propaganda videos.
The videos, containing English narration by Khalifa, were part of a media campaign promoting violence against US citizens and citizens of other countries in order to incite further violence against the United States, allied nations and their citizens.
Videos depicted scenes of violence involving Islamic State and its fighters, including unarmed prisoners being executed, depictions of Islamic State attacks in the United States, and described attacks and fighting in Syria. Includes footage. Egypt, said a news release from the US Attorney’s Office.
If convicted, Khalifa faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.