- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mohamad Khweis, a U.S. citizen who grew up near Washington, D.C., has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for successfully joining the Islamic State terror group.

Khweis, 28, was sentenced Friday after being convicted earlier this year of providing material support to the Islamic State, a designated foreign terrorist organization also known as ISIS.

A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Khweis is the first U.S. member of ISIS to be caught overseas, tried and convicted by jury.

Khewis flew out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport in December 2015 and ultimately ended up willingly residing in ISIS-controlled territory, according to federal prosecutors. He admittedly stayed at an ISIS safe house in Raqqa, Syria, the terror group’s former self-proclaimed capital, before being deployed to Iraq and captured in March 2016 by Kurdish peshmerga forces, prosecutors said previously.

He was formally charged by the Justice Department in June 2016 and was convicted by a federal jury 12 months later.

“Khweis purposefully traveled overseas with the intent to join ISIS in support of the terrorist group’s efforts to conduct operations and execute attacks to further their radical ideology,” said Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge at the FBI’s Washington field office. “Khweis recognized that ISIS uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate, and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber.”

Defense attorneys argued Khewis never took up arms for ISIS, however, and said he provided valuable intelligence to investigators after being in custody, including the identities of four Western members of the terror group.

“While he was there, he did not fight. He did not do harm to another human being,” defense attorney John Zwerling said, according to The Associated Press.

“He provided valuable, actionable intelligence,” Mr. Zwerling said. “And the government has given him zero credit for any of it.”

Khweis had faced anywhere from five years behind bars to life imprisonment.

Over 250 Americans have either tried to travel abroad to join ISIS or successfully joined the group’s ranks, according to the results of a study published earlier this week by The Soufan Center, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that researches global security issues.

Only seven of the 129 Americans who successfully fled the U.S. have returned from ISIS-controlled territory, the report said.

The Justice Department has brought charges against 135 individuals accused of ties to ISIS, including 77 cases yielding convictions as of August 2017, according to the report.

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