Kansas woman who joined ISIS left 'trace of betrayal'

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Kansas teacher who had converted to Islam traveled to the world’s most dangerous conflicts — Libya, Iraq, Syria — in...


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Kansas teacher who had converted to Islam traveled to the world’s most dangerous conflicts — Libya, Iraq, Syria — in hopes of waging war.

It was in Syria that the teacher, Allison Fluke-Ekren, finally left her mark: she rose through the ranks of the Islamic State, commanding a battalion of female fighters and training more than 100 women and girls, including her own daughter. .

Even though her daughter eventually escaped to Kansas in 2017, Ms Fluke-Ekren stayed, hoping to die defending the so-called caliphate and trying to trick her family in the US into thinking she was no more. urge. She was finally arrested in the summer of 2021, detained by unknown forces in Syria, before being brought to the Eastern District of Virginia in January on the charge of providing material support to terrorists.

On Tuesday, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, 42, pleaded guilty to the sole charge in federal court in Northern Virginia. As part of a plea deal, Ms Fluke-Ekren detailed her role in Syria as well as a previously undisclosed link to the 2012 bombings in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador. United in Libya.

For the FBI and prosecutors, his conviction marked the end of a seven-year hunt. Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s hardened militancy, fervor and exceptionally high standing in the Islamic State stand out even among Americans who have traveled to wage jihad in Syria. The case was the first prosecution in the United States involving a female Islamic State military leader, First Deputy U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Ms Fluke-Ekren was a “damaged person”, a teenage mother from Overbrook, Kansas, who slowly embraced Islamic State ideology and had a knack for languages, according to Amy Farouk, a former friend.

“It was a way for her to feel important,” Ms Farouk said. “It gave him a sense of purpose.”

Efforts to contact Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s family in Kansas were unsuccessful. But Ms Farouk, who said she met Ms Fluke-Ekren around 2001, filled in swaths of her life. At the time, Ms. Fluke-Ekren was a teacher at the Islamic School of Greater Kansas City.

After Ms. Fluke-Ekren had two children and her first marriage in Kansas fell apart, she met an international student from Turkey, Volkan Ekren, at the University of Kansas, where both majored in science. said Ms. Farouk. Ms Fluke-Ekren graduated in 2007 and then completed an education program at Earlham College in Indiana, prosecutors said.

The two eventually got married and had five children together, all of whom were born in the United States.

Around 2008, Ms. Fluke-Ekren and Mr. Ekren moved to Cairo, where they lived in the posh city of Sheikh Zayed, according to Ms. Farouk, who moved there around the same time. “Life was good,” Ms. Farouk recalled, noting that her friend was fluent in Arabic.

The family moved to Libya in late 2011, Ms Farouk said. According to the plea agreement, Ms Fluke-Ekren and her husband were living in Benghazi at the time of the 2012 attacks on a nearby US diplomatic compound and CIA base. In the aftermath of the attacks, prosecutors said Mr. Ekren claimed to have removed a box of documents and at least one electronic device from the US compound and brought them home.

Ms Fluke-Ekren acknowledged helping him sort through documents and prepare summaries that were provided to leaders of Ansar al-Shariah, a terrorist organization accused of leading the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi . At the end of 2012, the family left Libya because Ansar al-Shariah was no longer carrying out attacks in the country, according to the statement of facts.

Shortly after, the couple traveled to Syria, but Ms Fluke-Ekren returned to Turkey while Mr Ekren stayed and later supervised Islamic State snipers. She joined him in Syria in 2014, but the following year they moved to Mosul, Iraq, where she helped ISIS care for widows whose husbands had died in combat.

The family returned to Syria and Mr. Ekren was killed in an airstrike while conducting reconnaissance for a terror attack, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Ms Fluke-Ekren married another Islamic State terrorist, a Bangladeshi who specialized in drones and was working on a plan to drop chemical bombs using them. After the death of the man, Wamiq al-Bengali, Ms Fluke-Ekren married another Bangladeshi, an Islamic State military leader tasked with defending Raqqa, Syria. He died fighting for the Islamic State in 2018.

Ms Fluke-Ekren admitted that she wanted to launch attacks in the United States, including against a college that prosecutors have not identified. According to the criminal complaint, his plan was presented to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then leader of the Islamic State, who approved its funding. Mr al-Baghdadi was killed in a 2019 raid by US commandos.

The complaint says Ms Fluke-Ekren led the battalion in 2016, teaching children to use AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts. A witness saw one of Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s children, who was about five or six years old at the time, holding a machine gun at her home in Syria.

She was smuggled out of Syria around May 2019 and married for a fifth time, according to the statement of facts. But the couple separated and Ms Fluke-Ekren tried to surrender to local police near Qabasin, Syria. Two weeks later, she was taken to a detention center in Jarabulus, Syria. It is not known who ran the prison.

Mr Parekh said Ms Fluke-Ekren had left a “trace of betrayal” and her family members may want to make victim impact statements when she is sentenced in October. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

When Judge Leonie M. Brinkema mentioned her children, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, who was wearing a black hijab, became visibly upset and started crying.

Ms. Fluke-Ekren has at least seven children, five of them with Mr. Ekren. Federal authorities have brought six back to the United States, sources familiar with the matter said. At least one child, a son she had with her second husband, was killed in an airstrike in Syria. Her eldest son, who had lived with her in Cairo, moved back to Kansas before Ms Fluke-Ekren traveled to Libya.

Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s case is part of an aggressive effort by federal prosecutors in Virginia to prosecute terrorists captured overseas.

Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, was brought to the United States last year and accused of providing material support to a terrorist organization resulting in death. he later pleaded guilty and faces life imprisonment.

Two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who were part of a notorious ISIS cell called “the Beatleswere eventually caught and prosecuted. The group kidnapped and tortured more than two dozen hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, both beheaded in propaganda videos.

Mr Kotey pleaded guilty to his role in the deaths of four Americans in Syria was sentenced to life in prison. In April, a jury convicted Mr. Elsheikhwho also faces a mandatory life sentence for his part in the brutal kidnapping scheme.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kansas woman who joined ISIS left 'trace of betrayal'
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