US citizen is charged with providing support to ISIS

Lirim Sylejmani joined the extremist group in Syria and received military training, US prosecutors say

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 21, 2017 A US soldier advising Iraqi forces is seen in the city of Mosul on June 21, 2017, during the ongoing offensive by Iraqi troops to retake the last district still held by the Islamic State (IS) group. US President Donald Trump will announce further troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan in the next few days, a senior administration official said on September 8, 2020. / AFP / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED
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Prosecutors in Washington have brought charges against a US citizen who joined ISIS in Syria, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Lirim Sylejmani is accused of conspiring to provide and providing material support to ISIS, which the United States has classified as a terrorist organisation, between 2015 and 2019.

The department also claimed he received military training from the self-styled caliphate.

"The accused is a US citizen who abandoned the country that welcomed him to join ISIS in Syria," acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said. Sylejmani, who was born in Kosovo, "will now be held accountable for his actions in an American courtroom".

Sylejmani was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces last year and faced investigation by the FBI's Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The question of how to handle captured foreign ISIS fighters has vexed western governments, with the US vying for European countries to repatriate and try their own citizens.

Nations such as France and Britain reject the return of battle-hardened supporters of the violent group, which has claimed responsibility for attacks against civilians.

Some European governments, including Britain, have revoked the citizenship of a number of citizens over alleged ISIS links.

But the US has pushed back against these approaches.

"Leaving them in the desert is not an effective solution. It makes it more likely they're going to find their way back to the battlefield, and accepting that risk is not being tough on terrorism," the US State Department's counterterrorism co-ordinator Nathan Sales told a meeting in Brussels last year.

It could also put an undue burden on Middle East countries already dealing with their own former ISIS-fighter citizens, according to the US.

The EU-backed Genocide Network advocated that returning ISIS foreign fighters should be charged with war crimes under international law – such as genocide or crimes against humanity – in addition to whatever terrorism charges they may face at home.

As of May, about 2,000 fighters were still detained by Syrian forces and another 1,000 were in detention in Iraq, many of them European citizens mainly from France, Britain and Germany.