US sentences Canadian who narrated ISIS videos to life in prison

A screengrab from an ISIS video for which Mohammed Khalifa provided the English voiceover. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Washington (AFP) - A Canadian militant said to be a key player in the Islamic State group's propaganda production and who narrated multiple violent videos was sentenced on Friday (July 29) to life in prison, the United States Department of Justice said.

Mohammed Khalifa, who was born in Saudi Arabia, pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, resulting in death.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment, he left Canada in 2013 to join the militant group in Syria, where he quickly took on a leading role in the self-proclaimed "caliphate" that straddled that country and Iraq.

Khalifa, now 39, quickly began serving in "prominent roles" within the ISIS group and by 2014 had become a key member of a propaganda cell, the DOJ said, due in particular to his mastery of both English and Arabic.

That cell was notably behind the production of videos of foreign hostages being executed, including US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were decapitated in 2014.

Khalifa additionally provided the English voiceover for two of the most "exceptionally violent" ISIS videos, from 2014 and 2017, in which he is seen executing Syrian soldiers, the DOJ said.

He is also the alleged narrator of recruitment videos showing ISIS attacks in France and Belgium, which urge others to take part in similar acts of violence.

In January 2019, he was captured during a firefight by Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces allied with the US.

In an interview the same year with Canada's CBC from his Syrian prison, Khalifa showed no regret for his actions.

He said he wanted to return to Canada with his wife and their three children, but on the condition that he would not be tried there.

However, he was entrusted in 2021 to American authorities and ultimately transferred to the US.

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