Posted: Dec 10, 2021 / 5:57 PM CST
Updated: Dec 10, 2021 / 5:57 pm CST
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) – A Canadian national who traveled to Syria nearly a decade ago to join the Islamic State group pleaded guilty on Friday of serving as one of the organization’s best-known English-language propagandists.
At a hearing in the US District Court in Alexandria, 38-year-old Mohammed Khalifa pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material assistance to an identified foreign terrorist organization, which resulted in his death. The US District Judge TS Ellis III accepted the plea.
According to court records, Khalifa left Canada for Syria in 2013 after drawing inspiration from the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US cleric who later became a leading figure in al-Qaeda.
Prosecutors said Khalifa told two infamous Islamic State propaganda videos – “Flames of War” in 2014 and “Flames of War II” in 2017 – aimed at recruiting Westerners to join the Islamic State or as part of Westerners an international campaign to kill for holy war.
Khalifa also fought on the battlefield, according to prosecutors. He was arrested by Syrian forces in 2019 and held overseas until he was transferred to Virginia earlier this year to face charges.
According to an FBI affidavit, Khalifa told FBI agents that when he joined the organization in late 2013, he expected to be sent to an Islamic State training camp. Instead, he was recruited into the organization’s media department based on his English language skills and spent nearly five years as the head of their English-language propaganda unit, it said.
The affidavit states that in addition to “Flames of War” and its sequel, Khalifa told numerous videos showing prisoners being executed and beheaded. In another video, titled “Inside the Khilafah”, Khalifa urges listeners, if they cannot travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, to “terrorize the infidels with your jihad outside the Khilafah by targeting them instead attack and shed their blood ”. . “
Khalifa told agents he was arrested in January 2019 for defying an Islamic State order to flee from advancing troops in Shafaa, Syria. Instead, he started a kind of solo attack on the Syrian armed forces and surrendered after his AK-47 rifle was blocked.
In a press release announcing the guilty plea, federal prosecutors said the “Flames of War” videos in each of the two videos contained scenes of a masked Khalifa executing another Syrian soldier – while other masked ISIS members did the same Kneeling prisoners in front of them shoot every one of them.
Khalifa is due to be sentenced on April 15th. He faces the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.