There are Americans who are ISIS sympathizers.
In fact, to date, the FBI reports that just over 200 Americans have joined, or attempted to join, the ISIS movement. Tracking and stopping these Americans is one of the FBI’s top priorities. A handful of Americans seek to assist ISIS by participating in plots on American soil. Most, however, attempt to leave the country and directly participate in the fighting on the Syrian front lines.
Maryland native Mohamed Jamal Khweis is one of the ones who successfully skirted US intelligence and made it out of the U.S. The 26-year-old reportedly participated in the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Mohamed was born in the U.S. His father is Palestinian. His mother is originally from Mosul—a city in Northern Iraq, completely controlled by Islamic extremists. Although one can speculate, it is not entirely clear why Mohamed defected from the U.S. to join ISIS.
Apparently, the extremists’ lifestyle was not for Mohamed. He is currently in the custody of Kurdish forces.
March 9, Mohammed sought out the opposing army and gave himself up. He stumbled through the desert during the night–unarmed–and waited until daybreak. He then approached the front lines of the Kurdish army, begging to surrender. The Kurds were baffled . They had never witnessed or heard of a militant voluntarily surrendering. It is also the first time an American who has defected to join ISIS has surrendered.
Suspicious of his intentions, Kurdish military officials proceeded with caution.
After intense questioning and ensuring that this was not an attempted suicide bombing, Kurdish Intelligence took Mohamed into custody. He informed them that he was an American from Fairfax, VA. Officials were able to partially verify his statements using the VA driver’s license he produced and by contacting his family currently residing in the U.S.
Mohammed’s father, who resides in VA was incredulous when he received the news. When confronted by reporters about his son’s involvement with ISIS, he told reporters he did not believe it and would be contacting the U.S. State Department to verify their story.
When Mohammed’s uncle was able to see the driver’s license confiscated by the Kurds, he immediately verified that it was his nephew.
“That’s him. I cannot believe it,” his uncle, Kamal Khweis, told NBC News Monday. “He doesn’t even speak Arabic. ISIS? I cannot believe this.”
Apparently, Mohamed had devised a cover story to explain his travel and conceal his true destination. According to the family, Mohammed was vacationing in Europe. Last they heard, he was in Greece. Mohamed’s family is still grappling to cope with the news.
“He’s my son, he’s a good person, he’s a good son,” the father said.
It is not clear what lies ahead for Mohamed Khweis. It is uncertain if or when Kurdish authorities will release him to the U.S. If he is released and it is determined that he did, in fact, join ISIS, he could face prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice for a range of felonies.