American ISIS supporters transferred to US
Two American citizens have been transferred back to the US after being captured by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS in Syria, according to the Justice Department.
“Two US citizens, charged in separate cases with federal violations, have been transferred from the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces to US custody and transported to the US where they will soon appear in federal courts,” Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told CNN in a statement Tuesday.
One of the US citizens, 28-year-old Ibrahim Musaibli from Dearborn, Michigan, is being charged “with providing and attempting to provide material support” to ISIS, a foreign terrorist organization, according to a federal indictment.
The government alleges that Musaibli, a natural-born US citizen, was supporting ISIS from about April 2015 through June 2018.
He will be arraigned on the indictment at the federal courthouse in Detroit on Wednesday.
“We will vigorously prosecute anyone who provides, or even attempts to provide, support to terrorists,” United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a press release issued by the Department of Justice.
Later Tuesday, the Department of Justice identified the second defendant as Samantha Elhassani aka Samantha Sally, saying that she had been charged in the Northern District of Indiana “with making false statements to the FBI.”
The statement said that Elhassani was accompanied by her four minor US citizen children and that those children are currently in the care of Indiana Department of Child Services.
“Indiana (Department of Child Services) will make any necessary determinations regarding their custody, safety, and well-being,” the statement said.
A US defense official previously told CNN that the individuals were being transferred by the Department of Defense from Syria on behalf of the Justice Department.
The Defense Department “provided aircraft and aircrew to transport detained American citizens from Syria to the United States,” Pentagon spokesperson Cdr. Sarah Higgins told CNN.
The Syrian Democratic Forces captured Musaibli last month while he was attempting to escape the Middle Euphrates River Valley where ISIS maintains the majority of the terror group’s last remaining redoubts.
Musaibli was being kept in detention by the SDF where US officials had access to him and have been able to question him.
The Justice Department said the case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Musaibli was transferred back to the United States along with El Hassani, a US citizen who married an ISIS member, the US defense official said.
Musaibli was transferred back to the United States along with another detainee, Samantha El Hassani, a US citizen who married an ISIS member, the US defense official said.
The Justice Department would not officially comment on the name of the second US citizen transferred from Syria.
The decision to quickly transfer Musaibli back to the United States to face prosecution by the Department of Justice stands in stark contrast with how the US military has handled another American citizen who was captured on the battlefield in Syria and is accused of also having been a member of ISIS.
That individual, a dual US-Saudi national, remains in detention in Iraq and his fate has been the subject of a months-long legal battle between the US government and the ACLU.
The Defense Department told CNN last week that the US-backed SDF had nearly 600 foreign terrorist fighters in custody from some 40 countries.
A US military official with the coalition fighting ISIS told CNN that of the foreign terrorist fighters in detention, about 40 are from Russia, about a dozen are from Germany and another dozen or so are from France.
US officials have sought to encourage countries to repatriate their citizens in detention in Syria in order to ease the burden on the SDF’s detention facilities.
The US-led military coalition said Tuesday that it had killed several ISIS operatives involved in plotting international attacks, including one Belgian fighter who was planning “attacks against the US and its interests.”
“Belgian foreign fighter, Soufiane Makouh, who came to Syria to plan attacks against the US and its interests, was killed by a kinetic strike June 2,” according to a statement from the coalition, which is formally named Operation Inherent Resolve.
The coalition also said that a Syria-based ISIS member plotting attacks in Saudi Arabia was killed in April and a group of ISIS operatives with links to potential terrorist attacks in Sweden was killed in a series of strikes in June.
“On June 12, Coalition forces conducted a kinetic strike against Simak, a Daesh intelligence official linked to a terror cell plotting attacks in Sweden,” the statement said, adding that “two additional individuals directly associated with the Sweden attack plot, Abu Awf and Abu-Quddamah, were killed on June 24” and a third Swedish attack cell member Sharif al-Ragab was killed June 26.
Coalition officials have said that as ISIS territory is reduced the concentration of foreign fighters in its remaining redoubts is likely to increase, as the foreign operatives are more willing to fight to the death and find it harder to blend in with the local population.
“The death of these terrorists demonstrates that Daesh remains committed to planning and executing terror operations to places far beyond Syria and Iraq,” French Brig. Gen. Frederic Parisot, the director of civil-military operations for the coalition, told reporters at the Pentagon through a video teleconference briefing from Baghdad.
Correction: The headline of this story has been updated to reflect that Ibrahim Musaibli has been charged with supporting ISIS. The charges against the second US citizen had not been made public when the article was originally published, but later Tuesday the Justice Department named her as Samantha Elhassani and said she’d been charged with making false statements to the FBI.