US woman who led female IS battalion gets 20 years in prison
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An American woman who converted to Islam and joined the Islamic State in Syria, leading an all-female military battalion, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a US court Tuesday.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, who grew up on a farm in Kansas, was given the maximum possible sentence by US District Judge Leonie Brinkema after pleading guilty to terror charges in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
"You're obviously a very intelligent woman," Brinkema told Fluke-Ekren, rejecting her claims that she was manipulated by her Turkish-born second husband.
"There's no question that you were providing material support to a terrorist organization," the judge said.
For more than eight years, Fluke-Ekren was engaged in a "terrorism crime spree" across war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, including training other women and young girls to undertake attacks for the Islamic State, US Attorney Raj Parekh said.
Fluke-Ekren adopted the nom de guerre Umm Mohammed al-Amriki and "in effect became the empress of ISIS," Parekh said. "She brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill."
Fluke-Ekren is the rare American woman who occupied a senior position in the ranks of the now defunct Islamic Caliphate.
Her sentencing included dramatic remarks to the judge by one of her daughters.
Leyla Ekren, who was married off to an IS fighter in Syria when she was just 13 years old, said her mother was motivated by a "lust for control and power."
"I want people to see what kind of person she was," her daughter said.
"She abandoned me in Raqqa with my rapist," she said in a reference to her IS fighter-husband.
At one point prosecutors played audio recordings of telephone conversations between Fluke-Ekren and her daughter taped by the FBI.
Her daughter, who was in the public gallery, plugged her ears with her fingers as the tapes were played aloud.
In a written statement to the court, her son Gabriel, who like his sister waived anonymity, said his mother is a "monster without love for her children, without an excuse for her actions."
"She has the blood, pain, and suffering of all of her children on her hands," he said.
- 'Deeply regret' -
Fluke-Ekren, who was wearing a dark green prison jacket and black headscarf, addressed the court and asked the judge for a "compassionate sentence" of just two years in prison.
"I deeply regret my choices," she told the judge. "To anyone who has been hurt by my actions I ask forgiveness."
Born Allison Brooks, Fluke-Ekren grew up in a "loving and stable home" in Overbrook, Kansas, and was considered a "gifted" student, the US attorney said.
"There is nothing in her background that can explain her conduct," Parekh said.
After leaving her first husband, with whom she had two children, 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.
In 2008, the family moved to Egypt and in 2011 to Libya where, the US attorney said, "Fluke-Ekren's dogged pursuit to obtain positions of power and influence to train young women in extremist ideology and violence began."
They were in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 when the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia attacked the US mission and CIA annex there, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans.
Fluke-Ekren, a fluent Arabic speaker, assisted Ansar al-Sharia by "reviewing and summarizing 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 IS and living in the group's Mosul stronghold for a time.
Fluke-Ekren's second husband -- the leader of an IS sniper unit -- was killed in 2015.
She went on to marry three more times, including to a Bangladeshi IS drone expert and an IS military leader who was responsible for the IS defense of Raqqa in 2017, and have four more children.
In 2017, Fluke-Ekren became the leader of a battalion of female IS 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," Parekh said.
A tearful Fluke-Ekren acknowledged in court that she had provided such training but said it was only for self-defense.
"I never fought myself," she said. "I never shot or fired one bullet."