Recent ISIS propaganda videos have featured a masked executioner that can seamlessly transition from Arabic to English. The man’s accent has federal law enforcement officials believing he is an American, possibly from the Midwest.
In a video posted online on September 19, the man is seen dressed in desert fatigues and wearing a shoulder holster. In the 55-minute video, Syrian prisoners are seen digging their own graves before being shot. Both the purported American, and other ISIS militants take part in the mass execution.
Past ISIS videos that featured the beheadings of western prisoners, the executioner spoke with a British accent, and has been identified by counterterrorism officials. In this video, titled the ‘Flames of War’, the video features the English speaker and is designed as another recruitment video to get additional Westerners to join the fight in Syria and Iraq.
Michael Steinbach, the assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division released a call for the public’s help. “We’re hoping that someone might recognize this individual and provide us with key pieces of information. No piece of information is too small.”
If the man is confirmed to be an American, it would be the first time ISIS has employed an American fighter in mass executions. FBI Director James Comey shot down the idea that more than 100 Americans were fighting with ISIS. He put the number at around 12 currently fighting with the group.
“When I use a number of more than 100, that means people who have gone and come back, people who have attempted to go and we locked them up, people who have gone and stayed,” Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters. “The figure that I’ve been operating with is, ballparkish, a dozen still there fighting with terrorist groups.”
He talked to 60 Minutes on the issue of Americans seeking to join the fight in Syria, and the possibility of ISIS-inspired attacks.
“These homegrown violent extremists are troubled souls who are seeking meaning in some misguided way,” he said. “And so they come across the propaganda and they become radicalized on their own independent study, and they’re also able to equip themselves with training again on the Internet, and then engage in jihad after emerging from their basement.”
Intelligence officials believe there are about 15,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, fighting alongside ISIS or other extremist groups. Two Americans have been killed in the fighting, and thirteen have been arrested.
The FBI has set up a tip line for anyone having information on the masked executioner. You can call (800) CALL-FBI or visit the online ISIS tip page at https://tips.fbi.gov/digitalmedia/ISILtips
No tip is too small according to the FBI. If you think you recognize the voice, or know someone who has radicalized and traveled to the region, please use the above avenues to contact the FBI.