ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A trainer from Kansas who had transformed to Islam traveled to essentially the most bad conflicts on the earth — Libya, Iraq, Syria — hoping to salary conflict.
Syria used to be the place the instructor, Allison Fluke-Ekren, in the end made her mark: She rose throughout the ranks of the Islamic State, commanding a battalion of feminine combatants and coaching greater than 100 girls and women, together with her personal daughter.
At the same time as her daughter ultimately escaped to Kansas in 2017, Ms. Fluke-Ekren stayed, hoping to die protecting the so-called caliphate and seeking to trick her circle of relatives in the US into believing she used to be now not alive. She used to be in spite of everything detained in the summertime of 2021, held through unknown forces in Syria, ahead of being delivered to the Japanese District of Virginia in January on a fee of offering subject material toughen to terrorists.
On Tuesday, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, 42, pleaded in charge to the one fee in a federal court docket in Northern Virginia. As a part of a plea deal, Ms. Fluke-Ekren detailed her position in Syria in addition to a prior to now undisclosed connection to the 2012 assaults in Benghazi that killed 4 American citizens, together with the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
For the F.B.I. and prosecutors, her conviction marked the top of a seven-year hunt. Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s hardened militancy, fervency and strangely high-level place within the Islamic State stand out even some of the American citizens who traveled to salary jihad in Syria. The case used to be the primary prosecution in the US involving a most sensible feminine army chief of the Islamic State, the primary assistant U.S. legal professional, Raj Parekh, mentioned all the way through the listening to on Tuesday.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren used to be a “broken particular person,” a teenage mom from Overbrook, Kan., who slowly embraced the Islamic State’s ideology and had a knack for languages, in step with Amy Farouk, a former good friend.
“It used to be some way for her to really feel essential,” Ms. Farouk mentioned. “It made her have a way of goal.”
Efforts to succeed in Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s circle of relatives in Kansas have been unsuccessful. However Ms. Farouk, who mentioned she met Ms. Fluke-Ekren in about 2001, stuffed out parts of her existence. On the time, Ms. Fluke-Ekren used to be a trainer on the Islamic Faculty of Higher Kansas Town.
After Ms. Fluke-Ekren had two kids and her first marriage in Kansas fell aside, she met a global pupil from Turkey, Volkan Ekren, on the College of Kansas, the place each majored within the sciences, Ms. Farouk mentioned. Ms. Fluke-Ekren graduated in 2007 after which attended a educating program at Earlham Faculty in Indiana, prosecutors mentioned.
The 2 ultimately married and had 5 kids in combination, all of whom have been born in the US.
In about 2008, Ms. Fluke-Ekren and Mr. Ekren moved to Cairo, the place they lived within the upscale Sheikh Zayed Town, in step with Ms. Farouk, who relocated there round the similar time. “Existence used to be just right,” Ms. Farouk recalled, noting that her good friend spoke Arabic fluently.
The circle of relatives moved to Libya in overdue 2011, Ms. Farouk mentioned. In keeping with the plea settlement, Ms. Fluke-Ekren and her husband lived in Benghazi on the time of the 2012 assaults on an American diplomatic compound and a close-by C.I.A. base. Within the aftermath of the assaults, prosecutors mentioned Mr. Ekren claimed to have got rid of a field of paperwork and no less than one digital instrument from the U.S. compound and brought them house.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren admitted to serving to him kind throughout the paperwork and get ready summaries that have been equipped to the leaders of Ansar al-Shariah, a 15 may organization accused of main the assault at the American diplomatic challenge in Benghazi. In overdue 2012, the circle of relatives left Libya as a result of Ansar al-Shariah used to be now not carrying out assaults within the nation, in step with the remark of information.
In a while after, the couple traveled to Syria, however Ms. Fluke-Ekren returned to Turkey whilst Mr. Ekren stayed and later oversaw Islamic State snipers. She joined him in Syria in 2014, however the following yr, they moved to Mosul, Iraq, the place she helped ISIS in dealing with widows whose husbands had died preventing.
The circle of relatives returned to Syria, and Mr. Ekren used to be killed in an airstrike as he used to be carrying out reconnaissance for a terrorist assault, prosecutors mentioned.
Prosecutors mentioned Ms. Fluke-Ekren married any other Islamic State terrorist, a Bangladeshi guy who specialised in drones and labored on a plan to drop chemical bombs the use of them. After the person, Wamiq al-Bengali, died, Ms. Fluke-Ekren married any other Bangladeshi guy, an Islamic State army chief who used to be chargeable for protecting Raqqa, Syria. He died whilst preventing for ISIS in 2018.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren admitted that she sought after to release assaults in the US, together with on a faculty that prosecutors didn’t establish. In keeping with the legal criticism, her plan used to be offered to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the chief of the Islamic State, who authorized investment it. Mr. al-Baghdadi used to be killed in a raid in 2019 through American commandos.
The criticism mentioned Ms. Fluke-Ekren ran the battalion in 2016, coaching kids on tips on how to use AK-47 attack rifles, grenades and suicide belts. One witness noticed one among Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s kids, who used to be about 5 – 6 years outdated on the time, conserving a system gun at her house in Syria.
She used to be smuggled out of Syria in about Might 2019 and married a 5th time, in step with the remark of information. However the couple separated, and Ms. Fluke-Ekren attempted to give up to the native police close to Qabasin, Syria. Two weeks later, she used to be taken to a detention facility in Jarabulus, Syria. It’s not transparent who ran the jail.
Mr. Parekh mentioned that Ms. Fluke-Ekren had left a “path of betrayal” and that her members of the family would possibly wish to make sufferer statements when she is sentenced in October. She faces as much as two decades in jail.
When Pass judgement on Leonie M. Brinkema discussed her kids, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, who used to be dressed in a black hijab, was visibly disillusioned and started to weep.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren has no less than seven kids, together with 5 with Mr. Ekren. Federal government introduced again six of them to the US, other folks acquainted with the topic mentioned. No less than one kid, a son she had together with her 2nd husband, used to be killed in an airstrike in Syria. Her oldest son, who had lived together with her in Cairo, returned to Kansas ahead of Ms. Fluke-Ekren went to Libya.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s case is a part of an competitive effort through federal prosecutors in Virginia to prosecute terrorists captured out of the country.
Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, used to be delivered to the US final yr and charged with offering subject material toughen to a 15 may organization that led to loss of life. He later pleaded in charge and faces existence in jail.
Two British males, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who have been a part of a infamous ISIS mobile of Britons known as “the Beatles,” have been ultimately captured and prosecuted. The gang abducted and tortured greater than two dozen hostages, together with the American newshounds James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, either one of whom have been beheaded in propaganda movies.
Mr. Kotey pleaded in charge to his position within the deaths of 4 American citizens in Syria used to be sentenced to existence in jail. In April, a jury convicted Mr. Elsheikh, who additionally faces a compulsory sentence of existence in jail for his phase within the brutal kidnapping scheme.