U.S. prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a Canadian they say is one of the so-called Islamic State’s “top propagandists.”
In materials submitted to the court ahead of his sentencing hearing, prosecutors said Mohammed Khalifa was a “strong figure within ISIS”.
The US attorney’s office wrote that he not only produced gory videos used by ISIS to incite attacks and recruits, but also executed two Syrian soldiers.
“The defendant’s commitment to the violent and deadly terrorist organization he proudly served for more than five years continued unabated until his arrest,” according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors argued in their sentencing memorandum that a life sentence would be “a reasonable and appropriate sentence.”
Khalifa was due to be sentenced this Friday.
Canada’s secretive policy on ISIS detainees has closed the door on repatriation.
A 39-year-old IT worker who grew up in Toronto, Khalifa left Canada in 2013 for Syria, where he trained and used his English language skills to narrate ISIS execution videos.
In the 2014 video, Flames of War, he was shown watching Syrians dig their own graves and shooting a kneeling man in the back of the head. He did the same in a 2017 video, Flames of War II.
On January 13, 2019, he was firing on US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria when his AK-47 jammed and he was captured.
Although the RCMP was investigating Khalifa at the time, the United States took him into custody and flew him to Washington, D.C. to face charges.
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In an eight-page filing in U.S. District Court, prosecutors said Khalifa translated, produced and promoted ISIS propaganda.
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They argued that “the defendant’s English language, intelligence and communication skills made him a valuable asset to the Islamic State.”
Prosecutors said propaganda is central to the terrorist group, which uses the material to “recruit new members by spreading violent messages to active supporters and passive sympathizers”.
“Thus, the role of communication and propaganda becomes essential to the terrorist mission: increasing the frequency and intensity of violent incidents, promoting undemocratic values, instilling fear, and dividing populations and governments.”
“The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, masterfully used media and propaganda as part of its terror campaign during the period 2013-2018.”
The head of the Islamic State in Syria was killed in a drone strike, the US military confirmed.
As ISIS was being eliminated in Syria in early 2019, Khalifa left his role in the media branch and “chose to engage in combat,” prosecutors wrote.
He attacked a Syrian Democratic Forces position in Abu Badran, throwing grenades at a rooftop where soldiers were standing, but his rifle malfunctioned and he was taken prisoner.
“The defendant served in a leadership position within the Islamic State, where he and the terrorist organization engaged in horrific and violent activities over a long period of time,” read the sentencing summary.
After his arrest, he told OlxPraca in an interview that he was born in Saudi Arabia and lived in Italy with his parents before arriving in Canada.
Online, he began following conservative Islamic forums and listening to extremist lectures by Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
He admitted that after arriving in Syria, he joined ISIS’s media office and narrated videos and audio statements for the terrorist group.
He expressed no remorse in the interview, the recording of which was later seized by the RCMP under a court order contested by OlxPraca.
About a dozen Canadians and their children captured in Syria are being held in suspected ISIS camps in Syria.
The Canadian government has closed the door on their repatriation, saying it has no obligation to help them or bring them home.
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