Thursday, October 07, 2021

Leading ISIS Media Figure and Foreign Fighter Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to a Terrorist Organization, Resulting in Death

 Defendant was Detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and Transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia in FBI Custody

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – As alleged in a criminal complaint unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) English Media Section and served as an ISIS fighter, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. Khalifa was captured overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January 2019. He was recently transferred into the custody of the FBI, 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 he was also the voice behind the violence,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating, and advancing ISIS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, furthered its worldwide recruitment efforts, and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrific murders and indiscriminate cruelty of ISIS. EDVA and our partners have a long history of prosecuting national security cases, and we are honored to serve once again in this effort to seek justice on behalf of the United States and the victims of ISIS’s brutality.”

As alleged in the criminal complaint, Mohammed Khalifa, a/k/a “Abu Ridwan Al-Kanadi,” a/k/a “Abu Muthanna Al-Muhajir,” 38, of Canada, served in prominent roles within ISIS starting in 2013 and continuing until his capture by the SDF in January 2019 following a firefight between ISIS fighters and the SDF. In addition to allegedly serving as an ISIS fighter, Khalifa allegedly served as a lead translator in ISIS’s propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on multiple violent ISIS recruitment videos.

“This arrest is the first step in holding the defendant accountable for his alleged terrorist activity, which included serving as an ISIS fighter and an important member of the ISIS media bureau,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mark J. Lesko. “As alleged in the complaint, the defendant and others engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, with the conspirators serving the terrorist organization in a variety of capacities. As alleged, that conspiracy resulted in the death of numerous others at the hands of ISIS members and fighters.  The National Security Division and our partners are committed to holding accountable those who provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this case.”

“Let there be no doubt, the FBI will hold terrorists and those who provide material support to terrorist organizations accountable for their actions,” stated Assistant Director Timothy Langan, FBI Counterterrorism Division. “The unsealing of the charges today demonstrates the FBI’s tireless dedication and commitment to pursue those who join foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS. The defendant is alleged to have, among other things, played an integral role in the recruitment and radicalization of Westerners through the production, narration, and dissemination of English-language ISIS propaganda, including the Flames of War videos that depicted the brutal execution of ISIS-held prisoners and hostages. He will now face justice inside of a U.S. courtroom for his actions. We will continue to present a united front, with our U.S. government and international partners, in the fight against ISIS, those who support ISIS, and other terrorist groups.”

“As alleged in the complaint, as one of the leading figures in ISIS’s English media section, Mohammed Khalifa contributed to the radicalization of individuals through his English narration of ISIS recruitment propaganda,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “While many Americans are aware of the brutal and violent crimes committed by many ISIS actors, ISIS’s efforts to radicalize individuals to travel to Syria and commit violence on its behalf were equally horrendous. The charges announced today, which are the result of years of diligent work by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and our partners, are a reminder to those who continue to support ISIS around the world that the U.S. Government has not forgotten your crimes. We will find you and hold you accountable.”

The complaint also alleges that Khalifa traveled to Syria in the spring of 2013 with the intent of becoming a foreign fighter and ultimately joining ISIS. He joined ISIS in or around November 2013 and swore allegiance to then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In early 2014, he was recruited to join ISIS’s Media Bureau due in part to his linguistic capabilities as a fluent English and Arabic speaker. Khalifa played an important role in the production and dissemination of ISIS propaganda across multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences. A primary focus of much of Khalifa’s propaganda production was aimed at enticing ISIS supporters to travel to ISIS-controlled areas to join ISIS or to conduct attacks in the West, including in the United States, on ISIS’s behalf. Khalifa actively participated in armed hostilities on behalf of ISIS. Just prior to his capture by the SDF on or about January 13, 2019, Khalifa engaged in armed conflict on behalf of ISIS, including throwing grenades against opposing combatants.

The complaint further alleges that Khalifa was a prominent figure within the ISIS Media Bureau, the “Diwan of Central Media,” and assisted in the translation and narration of approximately 15 total videos created and distributed by ISIS. The productions narrated by Khalifa include two of the most influential and exceedingly violent ISIS propaganda videos: “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun,” distributed on September 19, 2014, and “Flames of War II: Until the Final Hour,” distributed on November 29, 2017. These videos, containing English narration by Khalifa, were part of an ISIS media campaign promoting violence committed against U.S. citizens and other countries’ citizens in order to incite further violence against the United States, allied nations, and their citizens. The videos depict glamorized portrayals of ISIS 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 ISIS attacks and fighting in what is described as Syria and Egypt.

Khalifa also allegedly narrated a series of recruitment videos entitled “Inside the Khilafah” that depicted various aspects of daily life within the Islamic State and featured ISIS members encouraging potential recruits to join ISIS and conduct terrorist attacks against non-Muslims. The narration in one of these videos encourages recruits unable to leave their home countries to join ISIS in conducting attacks in countries outside the Islamic State, displaying footage of ISIS attacks in Europe, including attacks in Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and Nice, France. The video also includes a voice recording of Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub mass shooter, declaring his allegiance to ISIS during the June 12, 2016 terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida.

Productions by the ISIS Media Bureau during the time period in which Khalifa was allegedly a prominent member include videos or images depicting: the beheadings of American hostages James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff, and Peter Edward Kassig; an announcement concerning the death of American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller; the beheadings of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning; the decapitated body of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa; and the beheading of Japanese citizen Kenji Goto.

Khalifa is charged with conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis M. Fitzpatrick; Acting United States Attorney Raj Parekh; and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Gibbs, and Aidan Taft Grano-Mickelson, all from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Trial Attorney Alicia H. Cook of the Justice Department are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:21-mj-34.

Affidavit is available here.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed one or more crimes. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Kaiserslautern Catch

 

Army Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Shaw plays catch with an Afghan child at the Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Sept. 30, 2021.

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced October 14, 2021

 Oct. 6, 2021


The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on October 14, 2021, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah (ISN - 1017).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than 10 a.m. ET October 12, 2021. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Install Effort

 

Army Spc. Jerry Spann installs cables on a communication tower at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico, Sept. 30, 2021. Spann is assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, which is supporting Operation Allies Welcome to help the immigration process of Afghan evacuees.

Cricket Match

 

Afghans play cricket at Fort McCoy, Wis., Sept. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Operation Allies Welcome Completes Vaccination Campaign for Measles and Varicella for Afghan Evacuees

  OAW flights from abroad will resume this week

WASHINGTON – Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) has completed a historic and nationwide vaccination campaign for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and varicella (chickenpox) to Afghan evacuees who are temporarily staying at eight military installations in the United States.  As a result of this effort, more than 49,000 Afghan evacuees nationwide are now vaccinated.  Evacuees are also receiving vaccinations at staging areas in Europe and the Middle East.  OAW flights from staging areas will resume this week. 

Arriving eligible Afghans receive the MMR, varicella, polio, COVID-19, and other age appropriate vaccinations, as well as medical exams and health screenings, as a condition of their humanitarian parole.  Pursuant to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Afghan guests will remain at domestic military installations for at least 21 days after the MMR vaccine is administered.  In some cases, persons who have special medical needs may be relocated more quickly, after vaccinations and other medical requirements are completed. 

“The success of this vaccination campaign demonstrates our commitment to the health and well-being of arriving Afghan evacuees, the personnel assisting this mission, and the American people,” said Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the DHS Chief Medical Officer and lead medical advisor of OAW.  “Operation Allies Welcome reflects the best of our country and this vaccination effort could not have been achieved without the dedication of local health care facilities and partnership between the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, State, and Homeland Security.” 

“The ultimate goal of Operation Allies Welcome is to successfully resettle our Afghan allies into local communities while prioritizing national security and public health,” said Robert Fenton, Senior Response Official for OAW.  “This historic effort is part of our enduring commitment to those who supported or worked on behalf of our Nation over the last twenty years.”

“Our nation’s citizens should feel confident in all that has been accomplished as well as the continuing efforts by the Department of Defense (DoD) along with our contract partners, to enable our Afghan guests to be fully ready to depart DoD installations where they are temporarily residing to safely begin their lives in America,” said General Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, the lead combatant command for the operation. 

The DoD is supporting OAW through medical screening, transportation, lodging, and general support on DoD installations for Afghan evacuees.  OAW provides essential support at secure locations where these Afghan allies can safely complete the necessary steps for resettlement in the United States.  Through OAW, America is delivering on its commitment to Afghan allies, many of whom worked on behalf of the United States at great personal risk to themselves and their families.  

In order to enter the United States, Afghan evacuees must successfully complete a rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process including biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional Intelligence Community partners.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

ISIS Media Figure and Foreign Fighter Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to a Terrorist Organization, Resulting in Death

 Defendant was Detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces and Transferred to FBI Custody

As alleged in a criminal complaint unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen, who was a leading figure in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) English Media Section and served as an ISIS fighter, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. Khalifa was captured overseas by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in January 2019. He was recently transferred into the custody of the FBI, at which point he was first brought to the Eastern District of Virginia.

As alleged in the criminal complaint, Mohammed Khalifa, aka Abu Ridwan Al-Kanadi and Abu Muthanna Al-Muhajir, 38, of Canada, served in prominent roles within ISIS starting in 2013 and continuing until his capture by the SDF in January 2019 following a firefight between ISIS fighters and the SDF. In addition to allegedly serving as an ISIS fighter, Khalifa allegedly served as a lead translator in ISIS’s propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on multiple violent ISIS recruitment videos.

“This arrest is the first step in holding the defendant accountable for his alleged terrorist activity, which included serving as an ISIS fighter and an important member of the ISIS media bureau,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “As alleged in the complaint, the defendant and others engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, with the conspirators serving the terrorist organization in a variety of capacities. As alleged, that conspiracy resulted in the death of numerous others at the hands of ISIS members and fighters. The National Security Division and our partners are committed to holding accountable those who provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this case.”

“As alleged, Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating, and advancing ISIS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, furthered its worldwide recruitment efforts, and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrific murders and indiscriminate cruelty of ISIS. EDVA and our partners have a long history of prosecuting national security cases, and we are honored to serve once again in this effort to seek justice on behalf of the United States and the victims of ISIS’s brutality.”

“Let there be no doubt, the FBI will hold terrorists and those who provide material support to terrorist organizations accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “The unsealing of the charges today demonstrates the FBI’s tireless dedication and commitment to pursue those who join foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS. The defendant is alleged to have, among other things, played an integral role in the recruitment and radicalization of Westerners through the production, narration, and dissemination of English-language ISIS propaganda, including the Flames of War videos that depicted the brutal execution of ISIS-held prisoners and hostages. He will now face justice inside of a U.S. courtroom for his actions. We will continue to present a united front, with our U.S. government and international partners, in the fight against ISIS, those who support ISIS, and other terrorist groups.”

“As alleged in the complaint, as one of the leading figures in ISIS’ English media section, Mohammed Khalifa contributed to the radicalization of individuals through his English narration of ISIS recruitment propaganda,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “While many Americans are aware of the brutal and violent crimes committed by many ISIS actors, ISIS’ efforts to radicalize individuals to travel to Syria and commit violence on its behalf were equally horrendous. The charges announced today, which are the result of years of diligent work by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and our partners, are a reminder to those who continue to support ISIS around the world that the U.S. Government has not forgotten your crimes. We will find you and hold you accountable.”

The complaint also alleges that Khalifa traveled to Syria in the spring of 2013 with the intent of becoming a foreign fighter and ultimately joining ISIS. He joined ISIS in or around November 2013 and swore allegiance to then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In early 2014, he was recruited to join ISIS’s Media Bureau due in part to his linguistic capabilities as a fluent English and Arabic speaker. Khalifa played an important role in the production and dissemination of ISIS propaganda across multiple media platforms targeting Western audiences. A primary focus of much of Khalifa’s propaganda production was aimed at enticing ISIS supporters to travel to ISIS-controlled areas to join ISIS or to conduct attacks in the West, including in the United States, on ISIS’s behalf. Khalifa actively participated in armed hostilities on behalf of ISIS. Just prior to his capture by the SDF on or about Jan. 13, 2019, Khalifa engaged in armed conflict on behalf of ISIS, including throwing grenades against opposing combatants.

The complaint further alleges that Khalifa was a prominent figure within the ISIS Media Bureau, the “Diwan of Central Media,” and assisted in the translation and narration of approximately 15 total videos created and distributed by ISIS. The productions narrated by Khalifa include two of the most influential and exceedingly violent ISIS propaganda videos: “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun,” distributed on Sept. 19, 2014, and “Flames of War II: Until the Final Hour,” distributed on Nov. 29, 2017. These videos, containing English narration by Khalifa, were part of an ISIS media campaign promoting violence committed against U.S. citizens and other countries’ citizens in order to incite further violence against the United States, allied nations and their citizens. The videos depict glamorized portrayals of ISIS 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 ISIS attacks and fighting in what is described as Syria and Egypt.

Khalifa also allegedly narrated a series of recruitment videos entitled “Inside the Khilafah” that depicted various aspects of daily life within the Islamic State and featured ISIS members encouraging potential recruits to join ISIS and conduct terrorist attacks against non-Muslims. The narration in one of these videos encourages recruits unable to leave their home countries to join ISIS in conducting attacks in countries outside the Islamic State, displaying footage of ISIS attacks in Europe, including attacks in Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and Nice, France. The video also includes a voice recording of Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub mass shooter, declaring his allegiance to ISIS during the June 12, 2016, terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida.

Productions by the ISIS Media Bureau during the time period in which Khalifa was allegedly a prominent member include videos or images depicting: the beheadings of American hostages James Wright Foley, Steven Joel Sotloff and Peter Edward Kassig; an announcement concerning the death of American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller; the beheadings of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning; the decapitated body of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa; and the beheading of Japanese citizen Kenji Goto.

Khalifa is charged with conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dennis M. Fitzpatrick, John T. Gibbs and Aidan Taft Grano-Mickelson, all from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Trial Attorney Alicia H. Cook of the National Security Division‘s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Assisting Afghans

 

A Marine passes out new pillows to Afghans at Upshur Village at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 23, 2021.

Mother and Child

 

An Afghan mother plays with her child at the humanitarian tent at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Complex, N.M., Sept. 29, 2021. The Defense Department, through U.S. Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan.

Learning English

 

New York Air National Guard Airman 1st Nathaly Joya spends time with two Afghan boys working on English words and counting numbers at Liberty Village at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 14, 2021.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Supply Distribution

 

Army Spc. Arlyn Libao hands donated supplies to an Afghan evacuee at Fort Pickett, Va., Sept. 25, 2021.

Infant Gets Tested

 

Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Cassie Saephanh with the 194th Medical Group, Camp Murray, Wash., uses a nasal swab to test an Afghan infant for the COVID-19 virus at the medical isolation dorm, Liberty Village, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 24, 2021. The Defense Department — through Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security— is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees.