A US court sentenced a high-level member of the Islamic State (ISIS) to life in prison on Friday. Mirsad Kandic, a 41-year-old citizen of Kosovo and a legal permanent resident of the United States, was found guilty last year of providing material support to the extremist group in Syria between January 2013 and June 2017.
Kandic played a significant role in recruiting and trafficking ISIS fighters, including Jake Bilardi, an Australian teenager who gained global attention for his eventual death as a suicide bomber in Iraq in March 2015. The Iraqi Army stated at the time that Bilardi’s attack was unsuccessful and resulted in only his own death.
Despite being on a no-fly list and being prevented twice from boarding flights to Europe, Kandic managed to leave the US for Istanbul at the end of 2013. From 2014 onwards, he was operating in Istanbul as part of the “media department” of ISIS, managing multiple Twitter accounts to disseminate the group’s propaganda, including videos showcasing executions.
Kandic subsequently travelled to Syria, and reaching ISIS territory, he joined a fighter brigade predominantly made up of foreigners. Prosecutors revealed that he continued using social media to recruit individuals, providing them with accommodation in safe houses in Istanbul, facilitating fake Turkish and Syrian identity cards, and arranging their travel to countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Egypt.
One of the individuals Kandic guided was Bilardi, who contacted him in the summer of 2014 when he was 17 years old and living in Melbourne, Australia. Bilardi quickly connected with Kandic online, and over the following weeks, Kandic provided him with guidance, including advice on what items to bring from Australia and specific instructions for his arrival in Istanbul.
Bilardi joined ISIS in Syria in late 2014 with Kandic’s assistance, and the two remained in contact for several months as Bilardi participated in battles and prepared for his suicide mission. Bilardi’s attack was part of a series of suicide attacks that occurred on one day in Anbar Province, resulting in the death of over 30 people and preceding an eventual ISIS takeover of the region two months later.