Virginia Resident Accused of Fighting Alongside ISIS Wants to Return Home | NBC4 Washington

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Virginia Resident Accused of Fighting Alongside ISIS Wants to Return Home

Mohamed Jamal Khweis: “The people controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion.”

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on the Fairfax County man who defected from ISIS. (Published Saturday, March 19, 2016)

    A Virginia man who allegedly joined fighters with ISIS only to escape from the group this week wants to return home.

    Mohamed Jamal Khweis said he met a woman with connections to ISIS in Turkey a few months ago, and she took him across the border into Syria to find ISIS fighters. Then he was sent to the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is under ISIS control, and moved into a house with dozens of other foreign fighters.

    “I was with a lot of foreigners, a lot of Asians, Russians and people from the surrounding area," Khweis said.

    But things were not as he expected.

    “My message to the American people is the life in Mosul is really, really bad,” he said in a television interview with Kurdistan 24. “The people controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion.”

    “I didn't really support their ideology, and at that point, that's when I decided I needed to escape,” he said.

    Khweis also complained it was hard to live in Mosul because there was no smoking.

    After a friend helped him escape Mosul, Khweis, 26, crossed battle lines to find Kurdish fighters Monday, knowing they are U.S. allies, he said.

    There was no mention of combat in the interview, which took place while in captivity. He is being held by Kurdish forces for interrogation.

    Khweis had been "lurking near the peshmerga lines'' since late Sunday night, according to Maj. Gen. Feisal Helkani of the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces.

    After Khweis was arrested, a photo of his driver's license began to circulate on social media.

    Helkani said Khweis was carrying the U.S. driving license, a large amount of cash, three cellphones and two other forms of identification.

    Helkani said his troops first tried to shoot the man, assuming he was a would-be suicide bomber.

    Khweis was held by the peshmerga troops for interrogation, Helkani added.

    In grainy cellphone footage, also posted on social media shortly after the surrender, the man is seen surrounded by Iraqi Kurdish troops and confirming that he is from the United States and that he is Palestinian. 

    Khweis' family in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County thought he was on vacation.