- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2016

A Virginia man who joined the Islamic State terrorist group and surrendered to Kurdish peshmerga fighters earlier this week on Friday expressed regret for his actions saying he made a “bad decision” to follow a young woman to Iraq.

In an interview broadcast on the Kurdistan 24 news station, Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, of Alexandria, Virginia, said he traveled to this Islamic State-held city of Mosul, Iraq, with a woman he had met in Turkey while traveling. 

“She knows somebody who could take us from Turkey to Syria and then from Syria to Mosul, so I decided to go with her,” Mr. Khweis said, NBC reported.

The two took a bus to the Turkish border and then a taxi to Syria that was coordinated by the woman’s sister, who had been married to a member of the Islamic State, Mr. Khweis said.

The two stayed in a series of houses with other foreigners, including Asians and Russians.

“On the way there, I regretted [my decision], and I wanted to go back home after things didn’t work out and saw myself living in such an environment,” Mr. Khweis said, NBC reported.

The woman’s identity was not immediately known. U.S. officials said this week that they believe the terror group has established a network of women to recruit new fighters.

After spending a month with the terrorists, Mr. Khweis had had enough of the militants and decided to escape.

He said he did not agree with their extremist ideology.

“I don’t see them as good Muslims,” Mr. Khweis said, according to NBC. “I wanted to go back to America.”

He said once he arrived in Mosul the militants immediately began to indoctrinate him and other new recruits.

“There was an imam who taught us the sharia and the religion,” he said. “I didn’t complete the whole sharia. I didn’t agree with their ideology and that’s when I wanted to escape.”

Although Kurdish forces have described Mr. Khweis as an Islamic State fighter, he made no mention of any combat activity and said he spent most of his time with the terrorists learning about the religion.

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

Mr. Khweis ultimately surrendered to Kurdish forces near the town of Sinjar. He said he went searching for the peshmerga fighters because he knew they were close allies with the U.S.

“My message to the American people is the life in Mosul, it’s really, really bad. The people [who] were controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion,” he said.

A U.S. official told NBC that American officials have not yet met with Mr. Khweis in custody but said the Kurds are debriefing him and passing that information along to the Pentagon.

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