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Canadian captured in Syria admits to role in gruesome ISIS execution videos

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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.

Global News

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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 he had acknowledged writing the scripts but that it could not yet confirm it’s his voice heard reading them in the videos, although that now seems likely.

WATCH: Canadian ISIS fighter talks about his capture






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. 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.


READ MORE:
Narrator of ISIS execution video is Canadian, says captured Mississauga ISIS member

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.

WATCH: U.S. urging allies to bring home foreign ISIS fighters






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.

Last month, as Kurdish fighters closed in on the last area of ISIS-held territory, they detained Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, who told his captors he was a former student at Toronto’s Ryerson University who 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.


READ MORE:
Canadian women fleeing ISIS territory surrender to U.S.-backed forces in Syria

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 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.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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