A US woman who grew up on a farm in Kansas, converted to Islam and joined ISIS in Syria — where she led an all-female military battalion — is to be sentenced Tuesday for providing support to a foreign terrorist group.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to terror charges in June in a US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
“For at least eight years, Fluke-Ekren committed terrorist acts on behalf of three foreign terrorist organisations across war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria,” US attorney Raj Parekh said.
“Fluke-Ekren brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill,” Mr Parekh said. “She carved a path of terror, plunging her own children into unfathomable depths of cruelty by physically, psychologically, emotionally and sexually abusing them.”
Mr Parekh, urging Judge Leonie Brinkema to impose the maximum 20 year sentence, traced Ms Fluke-Ekren's path from her upbringing on an 33-hectare farm in Kansas to her apprehension in Syria after the 2019 territorial defeat of ISIS.
While other Americans travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, most were men. Ms Fluke-Ekren is the rare US woman who occupied a senior position in the ranks of the now-defunct group.
Born Allison Brooks, she grew up in a “loving and stable home” in Overbrook, Kansas, and was considered a “gifted” student, the US attorney said.
She dropped out of high school in her sophomore year, however, and married a local man named Fluke, with whom she had two children.
Her son from that marriage testified anonymously about years of abuse inflicted on him and his siblings by their mother.
“My mother is a monster without love for her children, without an excuse for her actions,” said her son, who plans to attend Tuesday's sentencing in Alexandria. “She has the blood, pain and suffering of all of her children on her hands.”
After leaving her first husband, Fluke-Ekren attended the University of Kansas, where she married a fellow student named Volkan Ekren and became a Muslim. She later earned a teaching certificate from a college in Indiana.
They had five children together and adopted another after the child's parents were killed as suicide bombers in Syria.
'Extremist ideology and violence'
In 2008, the family moved to Egypt and in 2011 to Libya where her “dogged pursuit to obtain positions of power and influence to train young women in extremist ideology and violence began”, the US attorney said.
They were in Benghazi in September 2012 when the militant group Ansar Al Sharia attacked the US mission and CIA office there, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans.
Fluke-Ekren, a fluent Arabic speaker, assisted Ansar Al Sharia by “reviewing and summarising the contents of stolen US government documents”.
The family left Libya in late 2012 or early 2013 and moved around between Iraq, Turkey and Syria, becoming deeply involved with ISIS and living in the group's Mosul stronghold for a time.
After Fluke-Ekren's husband, the leader of an ISIS sniper unit, was killed in 2015, she forced their 13-year-old daughter to marry an ISIS fighter, according to the US attorney.
Fluke-Ekren, who adopted the name Umm Mohammed Al Amriki after joining ISIS, would go on to marry three more times and have four more children.
Her fourth husband was an ISIS military leader who was responsible for defence of Raqqa in 2017.
In 2017, Fluke-Ekren became the leader of a battalion of female ISIS members called “Khatiba Nusaybah”, which provided military training to more than 100 women and girls, according to the US attorney.
“During training sessions, Fluke-Ekren instructed the women and young girls on the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and explosive suicide belts” Mr Parekh said.
“One of those children, some of whom were as young as 10 or 11 years old, was her own daughter.”