WASHINGTON — An American who joined ISIS will be charged in federal court Thursday for providing support to the terror group.
Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, is the son of Palestinian immigrants and grew up in Virginia. While a number of Americans have been charged with seeking to join ISIS, Khweis is the first ISIS-affiliated American to have been captured on the battlefield.
After being captured by Kurdish anti-ISIS forces, he said he renounced the terror group and described it as not representative of Islam, calling life under the organization “really, really bad” in a television interview.
Khweis, who will face charges in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, has previously said he joined the terror group because of a woman.
The FBI interviewed Khweis while he was in Kurdish custody in Iraq, according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint alleges that Khweis admitted to conducting “extensive research concerning ISIL” in 2015, including “frequently” watching ISIS execution videos and using social media to privately contact ISIS and smuggle himself across the Turkish-Syrian border.
He told the investigators, according to the complaint, that when an ISIS operative asked him whether he wanted to be a suicide bomber, Khweis said he did. The complaint says that he said he thought that the “question was intended to test his commitment.”
After being captured by Kurdish anti-ISIS forces in March, Khweis told a local news organization that he had joined ISIS because of a young woman he met in Turkey who he said he accompanied into ISIS-controlled Syria.
“I wasn’t thinking straight,” he told Kurdistan24, adding that he left the terrorist group because he “wanted to go back to America.”
Khweis told the Kurdish media outlet that he wanted to warn others against joining ISIS.
“My message to the American people is the life in Mosul, it’s really, really bad,” he said. “The people … controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion … I don’t see them as good Muslims.”
“I didn’t agree with their ideology, and that’s when I wanted to escape,” said Khweis, whose only previous run-ins with the law were traffic violations.
More than 250 ISIS fighters in Syria are Americans, according to the U.S. director of National Intelligence. Khweis said he did not meet any other Americans while he was with the terror group.