Paris attacks: RCMP investigating whether voice on ISIS recording is Canadian

The RCMP is examining whether the voice on an audio recording attributed to ISIS and released in the wake of the Paris attacks belongs to a Canadian. CBC News asked three linquistics specialists to analyze the recording, and all said the voice has some telltale inflections and characteristics of Canadian English.

Security experts, 3 linguists say voice has some Canadian inflections and characteristics

Friday's co-ordinated attacks in the Paris area left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. The RCMP is following up on media reports that the voice in an audio recording claiming responsibility for the attacks may be Canadian. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

The RCMP is examining whether the voice on an audio recording attributed to ISIS and released in the wake of the Paris attacks belongs to a Canadian.

ISIS released audio statements in English and Arabic on Saturday, claiming responsibility for the co-ordinated Paris attacks Friday that claimed 129 lives. 

Const. Annie Delisle, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that the police force is aware of media reports about the apparently Canadian voice, "and are following up." 

On Monday, CBC News asked three linguistics specialists to analyze the recording, and all said the voice has some distinctly Canadian speech patterns.

Security experts and the linguists say the voice on the audio recording has telltale inflections and characteristics of Canadian English.

"The fellow on it sounded to me like he was … Canadian, and probably specifically from Ontario," Erik Thomas, a linguistics professor at the University of North Carolina, told CBC News.

Thomas, a specialist in dialect variations, has analyzed the ISIS recording and says he is 80 per cent sure the speaker is Canadian.

"There's a number of things that point toward Canada. His 'o' sounded more like 'oww,' which is typical of Canada," said Thomas. And also the word 'out'... he said like a Canadian, not 'owt.'"

Thomas said the speaker also had a feature known as Canadian raising in the way he pronounced words such as "vice."

The speaker in the English statement praised Allah and issued a warning to France and "all nations following its path … that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State."

RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson was asked about the Canadian connection at an unrelated news conference Thursday.

"[The] RCMP is trying to confirm that. It's somewhat speculative to say it's Canadian," he said.

He said Canada's spy agency, CSIS, is also working to confirm the possible link to Canada.

Agencies reviewing tapes

Amarnath Amarasingam, a Dalhousie University post-doctoral fellow who specializes in radicalization and terrorism, says the recording tweaked his ear as well. 

Amarasingam, who has paid close attention to previous messages and their potential Canadian connections, says, to him, it sounds as if the man on the recording is speaking a neutral Canadian English without any distinct inflections or dialects characteristic of any particular ethnicity or region.

Ray Boisvert, a security analyst and former assistant director of intelligence at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), says he believes numerous intelligence agencies are reviewing the tapes.

Boisvert, president of security consultancy I-Sec Integrated Strategies, said he sent the tape to a linguist who is "very adept at languages," and her first response was, with almost zero doubt, that it was a Canadian.

"It makes it very real and tangible that what the security agencies have been saying is that we have a problem of Canadian foreign fighters abroad," Boisvert said.

But he did acknowledge that this type of linguistic analysis is as much an art as a science and can't be 100 per cent certain.

Several Canadians have previously been linked to ISIS, as well as an al-Qaeda linked attack on an Algerian gas plant.

Amarasingam said there is nothing in the latest recording to indicate where it was made.

"There's rumours they brought cameras and audio equipment into Syria, and that's where they are producing these kinds of videos," he said. "But because transferring audio files or transferring text isn't a big deal, there's nothing to say these guys can't still be based in the West and doing what they are doing."

Authorities in France, meanwhile, have analyzed a separate recording in French that claimed responsibility for the attacks, and believe they have identified the voice as belonging to Fabien Clain, a convicted extremist suspected of being based in Syria.


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