Canadian captured in Syria admits to role in gruesome ISIS execution videos
A Canadian captured in northern Syria last month has admitted he helped produce ISIS propaganda videos that showed prisoners digging their own graves and being executed, according to a local source.
Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, who was detained by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Jan. 13, acknowledged his role in the ISIS videos Flames of War and Flames of War 2, the Rojava Information Centre said.
“Our sources in YPG confirmed that he is the narrator of both FoW [Flames of War] videos,” the group said. The YPG is the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF alliance fighting ISIS.
The group said it could confirm he wrote the scripts, but not that his voice is heard reading them in the videos. But The New York Times reported Sunday he had admitted to that as well.
WATCH: Canadian ISIS fighter talks about his capture
“No, I don’t regret it,” he said in an interview with Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who identified him as former Toronto resident whose legal name is Mohammed Khalifa.
Shortly after Mohammed was caught in the last patch of ISIS territory, Global News reported he seemed to be the long-sought Canadian narrator of the videos and many of the terror group’s other releases.
His alleged admission came as the government is under pressure to take back and prosecute captured Canadian ISIS members, and the RCMP is struggling to collect enough evidence to charge them.
The U.S. State Department has asked countries to repatriate and put captured ISIS members on trial. On Twitter on Saturday, President Donald Trump specifically called on European countries to do so, writing that “the alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”
A lobby group for the families of those in detention, Families Against Violent Extremism, said 29 Canadians were being held in Kurdish camps and prisons, and two more were still attempting to surrender.
They include women who had married ISIS foreign fighters, and their children, but also several self-admitted foreign terrorist fighters from Toronto and Montreal like Mohammed.
In the English-language Flames of War video, the narrator praised jihadist foreign fighters who had come to Syria from around the world and said they were “chosen by Allah.”
During a scene that showed the mass execution of prisoners lying face-down, he said ISIS was “harsh against the kuffar [non-believers]. This harshness never wavered and was a constant trait of the brothers.”
The 55-minute video ended with a row of kneeling prisoners being shot in the back of the head and tumbling forward into the mass grave they have just dug with shovels.
The same narrator’s voice can be heard in the 2017 video Flames of War 2, which similarly showed prisoners digging their own graves and ends with their execution. The same voice appears to have claimed responsibility for the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130.
But his identity remained a mystery until a captured Canadian ISIS fighter, Muhammad Ali, identified him to Global News last October as an Ontario man who went by Abu Ridwan.
Ali said he believed Abu Ridwan was still alive.
WATCH: U.S. urging allies to bring home foreign ISIS fighters
Last month, as Kurdish fighters closed in on the last area of ISIS-held territory, they detained a man who identified himself as Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed and said he had joined ISIS in 2013.
A childhood friend subsequently told Canadian terrorism researcher Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam that Mohammed was “Abu Ridwan” and the voice heard in ISIS propaganda.
The RCMP has been investigating Mohammed, who surrendered following a firefight, but he has not been charged. It’s unclear what weight his admission to his captors and reporters could have as evidence in court.
The Canadian open source intelligence group iBrabo has located the site of the mass execution shown at the end of the first Flames of War video and suggested the RCMP treat it as a crime scene for evidence purposes.
A former senior Canadian Security Intelligence Service official, Andrew Ellis, said in a 2016 speech at the Royal Canadian Military Institute that “many” Canadians were active in the ISIS propaganda wing.
“I would argue that that may be equally as dangerous, maybe more, than someone who is joining the military wing. A lot of these young Western adherents to Daesh are put on the frontlines and die very quickly.
“Someone who is working in the propaganda wing can hurt us over and over and over again,” he said.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.