Virginia Resident Accused of Fighting Alongside ISIS

A Fairfax County, Virginia, resident is accused of fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq. 

The U.S.-born member of the Islamic State group gave himself up to Iraqi Kurdish forces in the country's north Monday, an Iraqi Kurdish general said, a rare instance of a voluntary surrender of a militant fighting with the extremist group in Iraq.

Images provided to news outlets by Kurdish commanders purport to show an American man they identified as an alleged member of ISIS.

According to the driver’s license, the individual is 26-year-old Mohamed Jamal Khweis of Virginia.

"That's him. I cannot believe it," his uncle, Kamal Khweis, told NBC News Monday. "He doesn't even speak Arabic. ISIS? I cannot believe this."

He said his nephew told the family he was going to Europe on vacation, and the last time they heard from him he said he was in Greece.

Khweis' father, who lives in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, confronted reporters Monday and said he was going to the State Department to find out if the story is true.

"He's my son, he's a good person, he's a good son," the father said. "And I'm going to raise my kids the right way, and they are good boys."

He argued with members of the media and eventually turned a garden hose on them.

Local media identified the man as Mohammed Jamal Amin, but that did not match the name on the driver's license or credit cards, NBC News reported.

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.

"Then in the morning, he walked across and gave himself up,'' Helkani said, adding that the man is a Palestinian-American who was fighting with IS in Iraq. The surrender took place on the front lines near the town of Sinjar, which was retaken by Iraqi forces from IS militants late last year.

The ISIS fighter is currently being 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. In response to an interrogator's question, he says he was in the city of Mosul, which is under ISIS control.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the subject with the media, said the U.S. authorities are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen allegedly fighting for IS "has been captured by peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.''

"We are in touch with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to determine the veracity of these reports. We have no further information to share at this time,'' the official said.

Though rare in Iraq, Syrian Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in neighboring Syria have told The Associated Press that they are seeing an increase in the number of ISIS members surrendering following recent territorial losses.

Last week, Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama's envoy to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, announced that ISIS had lost more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) of territory in Syria and more than 600 fighters over the past month.

In Iraq, the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks that have killed more than 170 people over the past few weeks. Iraqi officials also say the group has launched a number of chemical weapons attacks.

Local officials in the town of Taza in Iraq's north say a recent attack injured more than 600 people. The attacks follow a string of advances by Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, including in the western city of Ramadi, which was declared fully "liberated'' by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition officials last month.

ISIS still controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and has declared an Islamic "caliphate'' on the territory it holds. The extremist group also controls Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, as well as the city of Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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