American ISIS Fighter Captured In Syria Faces Federal Terrorism Charges


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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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  • A U.S. citizen who was captured while fighting with the Islamic State has been indicted on terrorism charges.
  • Ibraheem Musaibli allegedly traveled to Syria in 2015 and fought alongside ISIS militants against U.S. coalition forces.
  • Musaibli, a native of Dearborn, Michigan, will be arraigned Wednesday.

An American citizen who was detained in Syria fighting with the Islamic State has been indicted on terrorism charges, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, was captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces earlier in July as he was trying to flee the Middle Euphrates River Valley. A native of Dearborn, Michigan, Musaibli was reportedly identified as an ISIS fighter by another detainee in an SDF holding facility. (RELATED: Michigan Man Suspected Of Fighting For ISIS Captured In Syria)

The indictment against Musaibli was unsealed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Michigan. It alleges that Musaibli traveled to Syria and “knowingly provided and attempted to provide material support to ISIS” in the form of “personnel and services.”

Prosecutors say Musaibli fought alongside ISIS militants from April 2015 through June 2018 as they battled U.S. coalition forces in Syria.

“I am confident that he will face justice for his crimes, and I hope that his case sends a clear message that we will hold our citizens accountable who are apprehended overseas and tried to join a terrorist organization such as ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement.

Musaibli will be arraigned in federal court in Detroit on Wednesday, according to the DOJ. He is only the second American citizen known to have been captured while fighting for ISIS in Syria.

The Pentagon confirmed that an American man identified only as “John Doe” had been captured in Syria in September, also by the SDF. The Trump administration initially tried to transfer him to Saudi Arabian custody, but a U.S. federal court blocked the move pursuant to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on the man’s behalf.

Later, the military said it would leave John Doe in the Syrian town where he was detained. The ACLU also sued to prevent that option, and the man remains in military custody while the case moves through the courts.

John Doe’s case illustrates the difficulties Western governments face in prosecuting citizens who’ve traveled abroad to fight with terrorist groups. Britain, France and other European nations have refused to extradite the majority of their citizens being held in Syrian prisons over fears that civil criminal cases could fall apart under strict rules of evidence.

In Musaibli’s case, however, the existence of an indictment suggests authorities have collected enough evidence to make a case against him.

Another U.S. citizen, Indiana woman Samantha Elhassani, was also recently detained by the SDF after traveling to Syria to join ISIS with her husband and children. When her husband was killed fighting for ISIS, Elhassani reportedly fled to an SDF-guarded refugee camp and identified herself to authorities.

Elhassani has also been charged in a sealed federal indictment, The New York Times reported Thursday. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the charges against Elhassani or when she would appear in court.

At least 71 Americans have traveled to Iraq or Syria to join the ISIS jihad, according to a database maintained by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Of these, at least 24 have been killed, 18 have returned to the U.S. or are in jail, and the whereabouts of another 29 are unknown.

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