ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) – A prominent Islamic State media figure and foreign fighter has been indicted in U.S. federal court in Virginia for conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization resulting in death, have federal officials said Saturday.
Mohammed Khalifa, a Canadian citizen of Saudi origin who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq, was captured abroad by the Syrian Democratic Forces in January 2019, federal officials said. He was recently transferred into FBI custody, in which case he was first taken to the Eastern District of Virginia.
“As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” said Raj Parekh, acting US prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia. “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. “
Khalifa, 38, held senior positions in the Islamic State from 2013 until his capture by the SDF in January 2019 following a shootout between Islamic State fighters and the SDF, officials said.
In addition to serving as an Islamic State fighter, Khalifa is said to have served as the lead translator in the group’s propaganda production and as the English-speaking narrator on several violent recruiting videos.
The lawsuit filed 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 around November 2013 and pledged allegiance to then-Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In early 2014, he was recruited to join the group’s media office in part due to his language skills as an English and Arabic speaker.
Prosecutors say Khalifa played an important role in the production and dissemination of Islamic State propaganda on several media platforms targeting Western audiences. It mainly focused on inciting supporters to travel to areas controlled by ISIS to join or carry out attacks in the West, including the United States, on behalf of the group. He also actively participated in armed hostilities on behalf of the Islamic State, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleges that Khalifa assisted in the translation and narration of approximately 15 videos in total created and distributed by the Islamic State. The productions narrated by Khalifa include two of the most influential and violent propaganda videos, according to the complaint.
The videos, containing Khalifa’s English narration, were part of a media campaign promoting violence against U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries to incite more violence against the United States, allied nations and their citizens.
The videos feature glamorous depictions of the Islamic State and its fighters as well as scenes of violence, including depictions of unarmed prisoners being executed, depictions of ISIS attacks in the United States, and footage of attacks and fighting in what is described as Syria and Egypt, a press release from the US prosecutor’s office said.
If convicted, Khalifa faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.