Is ISIS Executioner An American? Speech Analysis From New Video Could Help ID
(CNN) -First there was “Jihadi John,” the now-notorious ISIS executioner with a British accent, featured prominently in several of the terror group’s most gruesome propaganda videos.
Now, ISIS has introduced a new English-speaking executioner, and his accent is causing many to take note.
He appears on a beach on the coast of Libya, dressed in tan fatigues and positioned at the center of over dozen black-clad militants leading an equal number of hostages — Egyptian Coptic Christians they ultimately decapitate brutally in front of the camera.
As with previous ISIS videos, the intelligence community will be examining the footage to see what forensic clues can be gleaned about the speaker — his height, his build, his choice of words — all of these will be analyzed to determine who he could be.
But perhaps the most intriguing clues could be found in his voice. His English appears to be near-fluent, with an accent that might be American or Canadian.
CNN reached out to linguists in the U.S. and Canada who have seen the video to better understand what investigators may be noticing in the speaker’s speech patterns.
Several common elements stood out in their analyses.
Most of the linguists heard traces of Arabic influence in the speaker’s dialect — indicating he is likely bilingual. But they differed on where and when the speaker most likely learned English.
Erik Thomas, a sociophonetics researcher at North Carolina State University, told CNN the speaker “definitely learned his English in the United States,” though he also demonstrates some foreign language influence, likely Arabic.
“It’s hard to say which he learned first,” said Thomas, but he likely learned English from an early age.
Based on speech patterns, Thomas said the English is more American than Canadian, and probably does not come from the east coast, urban south or southern midwest.
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