WASHINGTON – The FBI is asking the public to help turn one of the Islamic State’s propaganda videos against it.
The bureau has posted online an excerpt of one such video in which a man, whose face is largely obscured by a black mask, speaks in what the FBI described as a North American accent. He was filmed standing in front of prisoners digging their own graves.
“This is the end they face,” he says, identifying the prisoners as Syrian soldiers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation decided to post the excerpt “to determine if public has any information that might be beneficial” in identifying the masked man, who the bureau believes might have spent time in the U.S. or Canada, said Carl Ghattas, the agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Counter-Terrorism Division.
The 55-minute video was released by Islamic State on Sept. 19. It’s just one of many produced by the group that depict graphic violence; several have included the beheadings of U.S. and European citizens.
Since posting the video Tuesday, Ghattas said the FBI has received a “substantial number of tips” and would consider posting more snippets in the future.
Federal authorities have become increasingly concerned about U.S. and European citizens traveling to Syria to join the fight, then becoming more radicalized and returning to their home countries to engage in terrorism.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before Congress last month that as many as 15,000 foreigners have traveled to fighting in Syria over the last three years. As many as 2,000 of those were Westerners, he said, adding that more than 100 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel there.
FBI Director James Comey has said the FBI is tracking 12 U.S. citizens in Syria but concedes there may be more.
Islamic State has captured territory across much of Syria and northern Iraq, where the militants have in recent days taken control of major towns in Anbar province to the west of Baghdad. The U.S. is leading European and Arab allies in a bombing campaign aimed at halting the group.