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Kansas woman who led all-female ISIS battalion faces sentencing

Posted at 10:47 AM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 12:47:22-04

The Kansas woman who admitted she discussed an attack on an American college and trained over 100 fighters in an all-female ISIS battalion in Syria, 42-year-old Allison Fluke-Ekren, faces sentencing Tuesday.

Fluke-Ekren, described in court documents as a mother and teacher-turned-ISIS battalion leader, pleaded guilty earlier this year to providing material support to the terrorist network and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors described her admitted actions as "monstrous," writing in a pre-sentence filing that Fluke-Ekren "brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill" after leaving her own family to "pursue a career in terrorism" in Libya.

The government's filing laid out a life full of torture and violence, which they said she inflicted on her younger brother, her children and her husbands, behavior that she allegedly took from her home to battlefields in foreign countries after she became radicalized.

In one instance, prosecutors say the defendant's son told them, "The more her children reacted to the pain, the worse the abuse would get," alleging she would put salt or chemicals in his cuts, punch him in the face and throw him to the floor. And in another instance, prosecutors allege she sexually abused her own daughter, who is testifying at Tuesday's sentencing hearing.

For her part, Fluke-Ekren's legal team argued that these new allegations of abuse were not relevant to the crime to which she admitted and that "she does not have adequate time or resources to fully investigate and rebut these allegations." She said she was "shocked and saddened" by some of the allegations, according to documents filed in court, and questioned their veracity, outright denying many of them.

The government said Fluke-Ekren converted to Islam while attending the University of Kansas and was "predisposed to zealotry," according to her father. She fled to Egypt, Libya and ultimately Syria, all the while "using different husbands to advocate for approval of her military training plans from the leadership in the terrorist groups with whom she was associated overseas."

Once in Syria, according to one of at least six government witnesses who say they interacted with her, Fluke-Ekren presented a plan of attack to a paid U.S. foreign government source. That plan, Fluke-Ekren admitted in court earlier this year, was to target an American college campus in the Midwest with explosives. Although Fluke-Ekren said the plan had been presented to the then-leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it was ultimately put on hold, the initial charging documents said.

The defendant, who went by the name Umm Mohammed al-Amriki, also spent time in Mosul, Iraq, when it was controlled by ISIS fighters.

In support of the terrorist organization, Fluke-Ekren trained women and some young women on the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts. She also commanded Khatiba Nusaybah, the all-female group of fighters trained to perpetuate the ISIS mission.

During an interaction with another government witness in Syria as described in court papers, Fluke-Ekren presented an attack that would have involved parking a car full of explosives in a shopping mall parking garage and detonating the bomb with a cellphone trigger.

She "considered any attack that did not kill a large number of individuals to be a waste of resources," according to witness statements included in the plea papers.

The attack on the parking garage was also abandoned after Fluke-Ekren's then-husband was said to have objected.

In the summer of 2016, according to the court documents, Fluke-Ekren married her third husband, a Bangladeshi ISIS member who built drones for ISIS and worked "attaching chemical weapons onto drones to drop chemical bombs from the air." He was later killed. Fluke-Ekren was married five times, the documents revealed.

Fluke-Ekren admitted that she continued her affiliation with ISIS until May 2019, ultimately turning herself in to local Syrian police in the summer of 2021. She was transferred into U.S. custody on Jan. 28, 2022, and now faces a maximum of 20 years in prison as a result of her plea.

Her defense attorney wrote in presentencing papers that her childhood was "lonely" and some of her actions abroad were in pursuit of "self-preservation," adding she ultimately disavowed her support of ISIS in 2019 and worked at a school and a non-governmental organization in Syria.