Analysts look for match on jihadist's voice in ISIS execution video

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Story highlights

  • U.S. intelligence officials are analyzing the voice on a ISIS video
  • They are comparing it with the voices of people being watched, officials told CNN
  • The 55-minute video released by ISIS shows the jihadist leading a mass execution
  • In the video, jihadist speaks first in Arabic, then in English
Is a jihadist featured on a 55-minute video released by ISIS, warning the United States against getting in its way in Iraq and Syria, an American?
That's the question being asked by U.S. intelligence officials as they analyze a recruitment video that features the jihadist, who speaks perfect English with a North American accent, orchestrating a mass execution.
The United States is doing a voice analysis and comparing what it finds to people the intelligence community has been watching, the officials told CNN on Saturday. The analysis is in its initial stages, according to the officials.
Officials see the killer's appearance in the video as significant because he comes across, they say, as articulate and persuasive -- a person of influence within the terror group.
In the video titled "Flames of War," the jihadist first appears speaking Arabic in a classical dialect and with the ease of a native Arabic speaker, CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.
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But the ISIS fighter -- who is masked and wearing a camouflage uniform -- seamlessly switches to English. There are a number of men digging a ditch behind him. The jihadist claims they are Syrian soldiers assigned to a 17th Division military base near the Syrian city of Raqqa, and who now, after an ISIS attack, are "digging their own graves in the very place where they were stationed."
CNN cannot independently verify that the men in the video were soldiers, as the propaganda video claims.
The video then shows the speaker and a group of militants executing the men, who fall into the ditch.
The man who led this atrocity on film could be an Arab who was educated in the West. Or he could be an American or Canadian. If so, Cruickshank said, he would be the first North American jihadist to commit a war crime on camera.
"Clearly ISIS had a calculated step to be able to put this guy on camera," said Frank Cilluffo, a security analyst at George Washington University. "Why? Because he seems American. The message is aimed at a Western audience."