Mohamad Khweis, an American citizen raised in Virginia, was captured by Iraqi Kurdish forces in late March saying life with the Islamic State was “really bad” and he wanted to come back to America. He knew he had a higher likelihood of being turned over to American authorities by Kurdish forces.
“It’s not like the Western countries, you know, it’s very strict. There’s no smoking. I found it hard for everyone there,” a stunned Khweis told Kurdistan 24 News Channel upon his capture. Khweis elaborated “I found it very, very hard to live there.”
He reportedly made his way to Iraq after meeting a Iraqi girl in Turkey who offered to take him to the Islamic State. Khweis barely lasted one month in Mosul before he began scheming to come home. He told Kuridstan 24, “I didn’t agree with their ideology, and that’s when I wanted to escape.” He did not like the ban on smoking or the eight hour a day religious schooling ISIS mandates for its new recruits.
Khweis arrived back in the United States on June 9 to face the federal district court in Alexandria on charges of providing material support to terrorists. Khweis was not known to federal authorities both prior to his departure to Iraq and during his tenure with ISIS.
Khweis was born and raised in northern Virginia to Palestinian parents who migrated to America 25 years ago. Khweis’s father was a limo driver and his mother was a cosmetologist. He took courses at the Northern Virginia Community College and worked as a bank teller in Fairfax county. The circumstances of his radicalization or motivations for joining ISIS are not yet known.
Khweis is a unique case compared to the eighty five other terrorism cases the FBI has filed against American citizens because he was captured on the battlefield. A study by the House Committee on Homeland Security found that approximately 250 fighters have tried to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. US officials told the Washington Post approximately 24 Americans have died fighting for the terrorist group while another 24 remain on the battlefield.
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