NY Times reviews IS podcast after source ‘hoax’

The New York Times has been forced to scrutinise its reporting on Islamic State (IS) in a popular podcast about the terror group, after a source was charged with lying about his experience.

Canadian Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, was arrested by police on Friday, and stands accused of hoax-terrorist activity.

Mr Chaudhry was a key voice in the Times’ Caliphate series.

Police allege he made up his story.

The New York Times said it will report back following the “fresh examination” of how Mr Chaudhry was characterised in the podcast episodes.

Questions over Mr Chaudhry’s tales of the Islamic State first emerged after he gave interviews to Canadian and American news outlets with contradictory information.

The Canadian broadcaster CBC used his alleged jihadi name, Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi in a 2017 report, in which he described lashing a man with a whip as part of his duties for IS, but said he never killed anyone.

His account prompted a debate in the House of Commons, when the opposition questioned why he was allowed to still live in Canada.

Then, in 2018, the New York Times aired an interview with him on their podcast series Caliphate, in which Mr Chaudhry said he had executed people for IS.

The conflicting accounts prompted CBC reporter Nazim Baksh to doubt the veracity of Mr Chaudhry’s story.

“I was shocked – wondering, ‘Did he lie to me?'” Mr Baksh said in a follow-up story in 2018.

Mr Chaudhry was arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Friday following a lengthy investigation that uncovered no links between the Canadian and IS.

The “hoax-terrorist activity” charge against him is typically used for fake bomb threats and carries a sentence of up to five years.

“Hoaxes can generate fear within our communities and create the illusion there is a potential threat to Canadians, while we have determined otherwise,” said RCMP Superintendent Christopher deGale.

“The RCMP takes these allegations very seriously, particularly when individuals, by their actions, cause the police to enter into investigations in which human and financial resources are invested and diverted from other ongoing priorities.”

The New York Times told BBC that its reporters have confirmed that Mr Chaudhry misled the newspaper about the dates of his travel to Syria, and the timeline of his purported radicalisation.

The newspaper said its journalists were able to geolocate a photo of Mr Chaudhry to the banks of the Euphrates river in Syria, indicating he was in the war-torn country at some point.

On Wednesday, the Times issued a statement, saying though the “uncertainty about Abu Huzayfah’s story was explored directly” in the Caliphate episodes he featured in, his arrest “raised new and important questions about him and his motivations”.

“We’re undertaking a fresh examination of his history and the way we presented him in our series,” it continued.

Mr Chaudhry is due to appear in court on 16 November.

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