Mohammed Khalifa, the Saudi Arabian-born Canadian citizen and key member of ISIS’ media and propaganda arm, was captured earlier this year following a gunfight with Kurdish fighters.
Having been locked up for nine months, Khalifa says he still feels an “obligation” to the Islamic State.
“I do see an obligation to continue fighting,” said Khalifa to Global News in an on-location interview in Syria.
With all things considered though, Khalifa may get to live out his “obligation,” as he currently faces no charges in Canada.
On top of this, Turkish invaders in the area have brought with them uncertainty, as thousands of other ISIS captives could attempt to escape their imprisonment to rejoin the Islamic State, or worse yet, attempt to return to their home countries.
With that being a potential option, it becomes highly alarming to many that Canadians coming back to Canada would not face any charges.
The Trudeau government has previously stated that ensuring Canadian terrorists face justice is their “top priority,” there have been a grand total of zero ISIS suspects who have met such a fate.
In an interview with former federal government national security lawyer Leah West and extremist researcher Prof. Amarnath Amarsingham at a Kurdish-led base, Khalifa admitted to leaving Canada with the intention of joining ISIS and narrating ISIS propaganda videos, with one of those being the infamous beheading video titled Flames of War.
West says Khalifa should face a variety of charges, including participating in terrorist activity, facilitating terrorist activity and counselling terrorist activity, and taking part in war crimes.
“His voice is very identifiable. And he acknowledges that that is his voice. It wouldn’t be that hard to match the two up,” said West.
“So to me, this is pretty strong evidence that he … committed these crimes. And that type of evidence could be used and would be admissible in a Canadian court.”
When asked whether he believes he’s counselled violence, Khalifa was frank in his response.
“I mean, it’s pretty obvious,” he said.
“As far as I remember, if you did the same sort of thing in America, where you’re translating any jihadi material, you’d be charged with incitement. So I assume it’s the same in Canada,” he said.
Khalifa is sadly not the only Canadian being held in the north Syrian Kurdish base. Mohammad Ali of Toronto admitted to being an ISIS sniper, and openly called for Islamic State attacks in Canada across social media.
Three other men at the base also identified as Canadians.
So what could be the possible reason for the sluggishness of RCMP to lay charges?
The RCMP says it’s due to the “complex and resource-intensive” nature of terrorism charges.
“Often, they require evidence of an individual’s activity in foreign conflict zones, or rely on information provided by partners that we are not authorized to disclose in court,” said RCMP Sgt. Caroline Duval.
Khalifa says it was al-Qaida lectures that radicalized him following his initial interest in Islam.
“I attended some lessons and it just had an impact on me, so I just started taking faith more seriously. At the time, I was basically listening to lectures by Anwar Al Awlaki and following what was happening in Syria.”
“That’s basically when I made the decision, around the summer,” he said.
He told his mother he was moving to Egypt. He disclosed his true intentions to no one.
“I figured that if they knew that I was going to go and fight in Syria they’d try to stop me.”
Following his flight out of Toronto to Egypt and subsequent travel to Istanbul, he took a taxi to the border and gave smugglers a few hundred dollars to get him into Syria by bus.
Khalifa’s plans weren’t written in stone, as his role with the Islamic State remained unclear, eventually joining Muhajireen al Ansar because its members spoke English.
After being sent for training, the Muhajireen joined forces with ISIS, finally being recruited into the media wing in April of 2014.
“They saw in him something — his voice, his language ability — and brought him into the media apparatus in a very big way,” Amarasingam said.
“And he stuck with that media apparatus to the very end.”