Shortly after the video begins, a man in his 20s dressed in camouflage appears on screen and begins a recruitment speech. His pitch is fairly straightforward: Come join the fight — you don’t need to be a radical to be a jihadi.
He says he was just a normal teenager growing up in Canada, fishing and watching hockey, before he left it all for the battlefields of Syria. “It’s not like I was some social outcast, wasn’t like I was some anarchist or somebody who just wants to destroy the world and kill everybody,” he said.
“No, I was a regular person. And, mujahedeen are regular people, too.” But while the young man in the video, Andre Poulin, cast himself as just a typical Canadian, the authorities there say he lived a far different life from the one he described.
In his late teens and early 20s, according to a Canadian prosecutor, Mr. Poulin learned how to build explosives online and considered becoming an anarchist or a Communist, before converting to Islam. And the video goes on to show where his beliefs ultimately led.
After Mr. Poulin — later known as Abu Muslim — finishes his monologue, he is seen running through a field in Syria during a siege of an airport, then dying in the battle. A graphic picture of his corpse is shown, and he is hailed as a martyr. He was likely 24 at the time of his death last year.
The video is believed to be one of the first pieces of media in which the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — or ISIS, the group that controls large parts of both countries — used an English-speaking North American to try to lure others to fight on its side.
It was distributed recently by a propaganda arm of ISIS, known for having one of the slickest and most aggressive media operations in the Islamic world, according to experts who track jihadist materials.
As its fighters have gained more territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS had taken over World Cup hashtags on Twitter to spread propaganda screeds and used Facebook to generate death threats.
“Once ISIS expanded into Syria, it was forced to compete with a lot of jihadi groups, and it took the production of its media to a higher level than any other jihadi group had previously created,” said Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst at Flashpoint Global Partners, a New York security consulting firm that tracks militant websites.
“It literally revolutionized how it produced, distributed and translated its message very quickly. The production value is very high.” Law enforcement officials in Europe, Canada and the United States have uncovered evidence that many of the foreigners who have traveled to Syria to fight have been inspired by online media they have seen from jihadis.
Through chat rooms, email and text messages, the groups arrange for them to travel to Syria to begin militant training. The recruitment video featuring Mr. Poulin is called “The Chosen Few of Different Lands” and starts with picturesque footage of the Canadian countryside as he describes his childhood.
“Before I come here to Syria, I had money, I had family, I had good friends, I had colleagues,” Mr. Poulin said. “You know I worked as a street janitor — I made over $2,000 a month at this job. It was a very good job, a very good job.”
He added: “And even though I wasn’t rich beyond my wildest imaginations, you know I was making it. It was good, and you know I always had family to support me, and I had friends to support me.”
But life in Canada was not religiously fulfilling, Mr. Poulin said, and he asks his fellow Muslim “brothers” on the video how they can please God when they are living in countries where their taxes are being used “to assist the war on Islam.”
Appealing for help, he said that the jihad in Syria needed engineers, doctors, fund-raisers and others. “If you cannot fight, then you can give money,” he said. “And if you cannot give money, then you can assist in technology. And if you can’t assist in technology, you can use some other skills.”
He said that those who came to the expansive territory his group controls in Syria “will be very well taken care of here — your families will live here in safety just like back home.” The video then shows Mr. Poulin on the battlefield.
A narrator describes how Mr. Poulin was jailed in Canada, but did not let that stop him as he was “patient and firm.” He then rushed to Syria, married and had a child but took to the battlefield anyway. According to the prosecutor in Timmins, Ontario, Mr. Poulin’s hometown, Mr. Poulin was arrested twice before converting to Islam in 2008.
The prosecutor, Gerrit Verbeek, said that in 2009, Mr. Poulin moved in with a Muslim couple in Timmins who had a child. Shortly afterward, Mr. Poulin began having an affair with the wife and threatening the husband because he was not religious enough, Mr. Verbeek said.
At least twice in 2009, Mr. Poulin was arrested on charges of making violent threats against the husband. On one occasion, Mr. Poulin had a box cutter and another weapon on him, the prosecutor said.
After one of the arrests, Mr. Poulin admitted to making the threats and also described other activities to the police. “He talked about making bombs — he admitted he looked on the Internet at ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ about how to build bombs with materials you buy at the grocery store,” Mr. Verbeek said.
“He said he doesn’t care if he went to jail. Then he says that nobody is going to help him and that everybody is out to get him. He said something had to be done and he talked about sacrificing himself.” Mr. Poulin was arrested again in 2010 and served two weeks in jail.
“And then I never heard from him again,” Mr. Verbeek said. “He just fell right off the radar. And apparently, it didn’t turn out so well for Mr. Poulin.”
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT