American woman who led ISIS battalion sentenced to 20 years in US prison

Allison Fluke-Ekren given maximum penalty after her children denounce her in court

Allison Fluke-Ekren. AFP
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A Kansas woman who led an all-female ISIS battalion in Syria was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday after her own children denounced her in court and described the abuse they had suffered.

Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, admitted that she travelled to Syria and led a battalion known as Khatiba Nusaybah, which trained dozens of women and girls in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts.

One of Fluke-Ekren’s daughters was among those who said she had received such training.

The daughter and Fluke-Ekren’s oldest son urged the judge to impose the 20-year maximum sentence, which was handed down at the end of an emotionally charged hearing in a courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Clad in a green prison uniform and wearing a black head scarf to cover her hair, Fluke-Ekren took detailed notes throughout the hearing, often leaning over to confer with her lawyer.

Two of her adult children gave victim impact statements against their mother.

Daughter Leyla Ekren accused her mother of "torture" and of marrying her off at 13 years old to be a "sex slave" so that her new husband would help her mother's ISIS battalion.

Fighting back tears at times, Ms Ekren said she "felt degraded" while growing up.

Prosecutors played a recording of a phone call between Ms Ekren and her mother from January 2021.

The young woman shook as she plugged her ears with her fingers while her elder brother patted her gently on the back to comfort her.

Fluke-Ekren, who is fluent in Arabic, moved to Egypt in 2008 and then to Libya in 2011, before travelling to Syria, where she joined ISIS.

She spoke at her sentencing, disputing the government's description of her time in Syria and her work with Khatiba Nusaybah, which she described as a three-day survival programme.

Fluke-Ekren said she was "shocked" by the allegations her children made against her and denied any mistreatment.

"Although I'm heartbroken by the horrific and false accusations of abuse, I love you Leyla," she said.

"I deeply regret my choices," she told the court, at times fighting back tears.

She tried to portray herself as a victim of circumstances who did not see a way out of Syria.

At one point, Judge Leonie Brinkema interrupted her to ask if she had allowed her daughter to be married off at 13 years of age.

Fluke-Ekren responded that Leyla was "a few weeks off from turning 14".

"It was her decision, I never forced her," she said.

Ms Brinkema said during sentencing that: "I do not find your allocution to be wholly credible."

At its peak in 2014, ISIS controlled one third of Iraq and Syria, a land mass the size of Britain, and governed more than 10 million people.

The US court in Alexandria, Virginia. AP

While in Syria, Fluke-Ekren reportedly spoke of a desire to attack a US university campus, the Justice Department said.

Her position in ISIS appears to have been a point of pride for the terrorist group, a detention memo published this year claimed.

A witness described Fluke-Ekren as being “‘off the charts’ and an ‘11 or a 12’ on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely radicalised”, first assistant US attorney Raj Parekh wrote in the memo.

As part of her sentencing and at the request of family members, she is not allowed to have any communication with her two adult children or her parents, who prosecutors said had also asked for the maximum sentence.

Her prison term is to be followed by 25 years of supervised release, during which time she must submit to several conditions including computer monitoring.

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Updated: November 02, 2022, 7:13 AM
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