American ISIS Fighter Who ‘Found It Hard’ Returns to Face Criminal Charges

Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, June 9, 2016

A Northern Virginia man who joined and then fled the Islamic State before being captured by Kurdish fighters in Iraq was flown back to the United States late Wednesday to face trial. Mohamad Khweis was charged in federal district court in Alexandria with providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, according to court records and U.S. officials familiar with the case.

Khweis is expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon.

In an 11-page affidavit, FBI Special Agent Victoria I. Martinez alleged that Khweis, 26, moved to various Islamic State safehouses during his time abroad and admitted in an interview that he told another member of the group–also known as ISIL or ISIS–that he wanted to be a suicide bomber in response to a question he thought was meant to test his loyalty.

Martinez stated in the affidavit that Khweis was “inspired to join ISIL because he saw that they had established an Islamic caliphate and were in the process of expanding it.”

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“I found it very, very hard to live there,” Khweis told Kurdistan 24.

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Although U.S. prosecutors have charged at least 85 people nationwide with Islamic State-related crimes, Khweis is the first American to have been captured on the battlefield.

According to a recent congressional report, more than 250 Americans have tried or succeeded in getting to Syria and Iraq to fight with militant groups–although that figure includes even those who never left the United States. American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, estimated recently that two dozen have been killed in Syria and that another two dozen are still fighting there.

Kurdish peshmerga forces said they first fired on Khweis when they encountered him near the town of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, then took him into custody.

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The yearbook from his senior year lists him as having participated in no extracurricular activities. Friends have said he was a soft-spoken teenager who wore designer shoes and showed no signs of being a particularly devout Muslim.

“He was a good, kindhearted person,” said one family friend, who declined to give his name.

Martinez alleged in the affidavit that when Khweis was detained by the peshmerga, he had three mobile phones, two bank cards and about $600 in various currencies. The FBI agent stated that Khweis had maps of Turkey, Iraq and Syria on his electronic devices, as well as images of the World Trade Center burning on Sept. 11, 2001.

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