ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A trainer from Kansas who had transformed to Islam traveled to essentially the most harmful conflicts on the earth — Libya, Iraq, Syria — hoping to wage conflict.
Syria was the place the trainer, Allison Fluke-Ekren, in the end made her mark: She rose via the ranks of the Islamic State, commanding a battalion of feminine fighters and coaching greater than 100 ladies and women, together with her personal daughter.
Even as her daughter finally escaped to Kansas in 2017, Ms. Fluke-Ekren stayed, hoping to die defending the so-called caliphate and attempting to trick her household within the United States into believing she was now not alive. She was lastly detained in the summertime of 2021, held by unknown forces in Syria, earlier than being delivered to the Eastern District of Virginia in January on a cost of offering materials assist to terrorists.
On Tuesday, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, 42, pleaded guilty to the single charge in a federal courtroom in Northern Virginia. As half of a plea deal, Ms. Fluke-Ekren detailed her position in Syria in addition to a beforehand undisclosed connection to the 2012 assaults in Benghazi that killed 4 Americans, together with the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
For the F.B.I. and prosecutors, her conviction marked the tip of a seven-year hunt. Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s hardened militancy, fervency and unusually high-level place within the Islamic State stand out even among the many Americans who traveled to wage jihad in Syria. The case was the primary prosecution within the United States involving a prime feminine navy chief of the Islamic State, the primary assistant U.S. legal professional, Raj Parekh, stated through the listening to on Tuesday.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren was a “damaged person,” a teenage mom from Overbrook, Kan., who slowly embraced the Islamic State’s ideology and had a knack for languages, in accordance with Amy Farouk, a former pal.
“It was a way for her to feel important,” Ms. Farouk stated. “It made her have a sense of purpose.”
Efforts to succeed in Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s household in Kansas had been unsuccessful. But Ms. Farouk, who stated she met Ms. Fluke-Ekren in about 2001, crammed out parts of her life. At the time, Ms. Fluke-Ekren was a trainer on the Islamic School of Greater Kansas City.
After Ms. Fluke-Ekren had two youngsters and her first marriage in Kansas fell aside, she met a world scholar from Turkey, Volkan Ekren, on the University of Kansas, the place each majored within the sciences, Ms. Farouk stated. Ms. Fluke-Ekren graduated in 2007 after which attended a educating program at Earlham College in Indiana, prosecutors stated.
The two finally married and had 5 youngsters collectively, all of whom had been born within the United States.
In about 2008, Ms. Fluke-Ekren and Mr. Ekren moved to Cairo, the place they lived within the upscale Sheikh Zayed City, in accordance with Ms. Farouk, who relocated there across the similar time. “Life was good,” Ms. Farouk recalled, noting that her pal spoke Arabic fluently.
The household moved to Libya in late 2011, Ms. Farouk stated. According to 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. In the aftermath of the assaults, prosecutors stated Mr. Ekren claimed to have eliminated a field of paperwork and a minimum of one digital machine from the U.S. compound and brought them house.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren admitted to serving to him kind via the paperwork and put together summaries that had been supplied to the leaders of Ansar al-Shariah, a terrorist group accused of main the assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi. In late 2012, the household left Libya as a result of Ansar al-Shariah was now not conducting assaults within the nation, in accordance with the assertion of info.
Shortly after, the couple traveled to Syria, however Ms. Fluke-Ekren returned to Turkey whereas Mr. Ekren stayed and later oversaw Islamic State snipers. She joined him in Syria in 2014, however the subsequent 12 months, they moved to Mosul, Iraq, the place she helped ISIS in dealing with widows whose husbands had died preventing.
The household returned to Syria, and Mr. Ekren was killed in an airstrike as he was conducting reconnaissance for a terrorist assault, prosecutors stated.
Prosecutors stated Ms. Fluke-Ekren married one other Islamic State terrorist, a Bangladeshi man who specialised in drones and labored on a plan to drop chemical bombs utilizing them. After the person, Wamiq al-Bengali, died, Ms. Fluke-Ekren married one other Bangladeshi man, an Islamic State navy chief who was liable for defending Raqqa, Syria. He died whereas preventing for ISIS in 2018.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren admitted that she wished to launch assaults within the United States, together with on a faculty that prosecutors didn’t determine. According to the prison grievance, her plan was offered to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the chief of the Islamic State, who permitted funding it. Mr. al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid in 2019 by American commandos.
The grievance stated Ms. Fluke-Ekren ran the battalion in 2016, coaching youngsters on how one can use AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts. One witness noticed one of Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s youngsters, who was about 5 – 6 years previous on the time, holding a machine gun at her house in Syria.
She was smuggled out of Syria in about May 2019 and married a fifth time, in accordance with the assertion of info. But the couple separated, and Ms. Fluke-Ekren tried to give up to the native police close to Qabasin, Syria. Two weeks later, she was taken to a detention facility in Jarabulus, Syria. It just isn’t clear who ran the jail.
Mr. Parekh stated that Ms. Fluke-Ekren had left a “trail 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 20 years in jail.
When Judge Leonie M. Brinkema talked about her youngsters, Ms. Fluke-Ekren, who was carrying a black hijab, grew to become visibly upset and commenced to weep.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren has a minimum of seven youngsters, together with 5 with Mr. Ekren. Federal authorities introduced again six of them to the United States, individuals aware of the matter stated. At least one youngster, a son she had together with her second husband, was killed in an airstrike in Syria. Her oldest son, who had lived together with her in Cairo, returned to Kansas earlier than Ms. Fluke-Ekren went to Libya.
Ms. Fluke-Ekren’s case is a component of an aggressive effort by federal prosecutors in Virginia to prosecute terrorists captured overseas.
Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi-born Canadian who traveled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, was delivered to the United States final 12 months and charged with offering materials assist to a terrorist group that resulted in demise. He later pleaded guilty and faces life in jail.
Two British males, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who had been half of a infamous ISIS cell of Britons referred to as “the Beatles,” had been finally captured and prosecuted. The group kidnapped and tortured greater than two dozen hostages, together with the American journalists James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, each of whom had been beheaded in propaganda movies.
Mr. Kotey pleaded guilty to his position within the deaths of 4 Americans in Syria and was sentenced to life in jail. In April, a jury convicted Mr. Elsheikh, who additionally faces a obligatory sentence of life in jail for his half within the brutal kidnapping scheme.