- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2016

An alleged Islamic State defector is apparently eliciting little sympathy from U.S. law enforcement following his departure from the terrorist group and subsequent capture by Kurdish forces in Iraq earlier this year.

Prosecutors announced Thursday that they have charged the 26-year-old Virginia man, Mohamad Jamal Khweis, with providing and conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Mr. Khweis left the United States to head to Syria in December, traveling through the United Kingdom and eventually being smuggled across the Turkish border to an Islamic State-controlled safe house in Raqqa, Syria, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that was unsealed Thursday.

The alleged Islamic State recruit made headlines in March after he was captured by Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and gave a televised interview to Kurdistan 24 television claiming to be a defector from the group. In the interview, he claimed to have stayed in Mosul rather than Raqqa.

“I made a bad decision to go with the girl and go to Mosul,” Mr. Khweis said in the interview. “At the time I made a decision to go because I wasn’t thinking straight, and on the way there I regretted — I wanted to go back.”

He described his life living among Islamic State fighters as “really, really bad,” claiming that he didn’t like the lifestyle enforced, which included strict rules and a ban on smoking.

The affidavit, filed by FBI Special Agent Victoria Martinez, indicates that Mr. Khweis lied during the television interview but does not specify what incorrect information he provided at that time. Court documents make no mention of the woman Mr. Khweis claimed to have traveled with.

“The defendant stated that, while he initially had misgivings about being interviewed for the media report in part because the video would be disseminated publicly, he nonetheless decided to voluntarily participate in the media interview without any threats or coercion applied against him,” the court documents state. “The defendant acknowledged that his statements to the Kurdish media about his involvement with Daesh were accurate, but that he also provided misleading information in the video for self-protection.”

The document indicates that Mr. Khweis was carrying three cell phones and several memory cards that contained contact information for Islamic State recruiters as well as recruiting propaganda images and videos when he was caught. During interviews with U.S. authorities, prosecutors said he admitted to traveling to Syria to join the terrorist group, admitting at one point he had pledged to carry out a suicide bomb attack if directed, and participating in one month of religious training ahead as required by the group. The affidavit makes no mention of any military training.

Mr. Khweis is expected to make his initial appearance in court Thursday at 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

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