US woman who led female Daesh battalion gets 20 years in prison

ALEXANDRIA, United States (AFP): An American woman who joined Daesh 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 sentenced in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after pleading guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors told the court that for more than eight years, Fluke-Ekren “committed terrorist acts on behalf of three foreign terrorist organizations across war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria,” including training other women and young girls to undertake attacks for Daesh.

Fluke Ekren “in effect became the empress of Daesh,” said US attorney Raj Parekh. “She brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill,” he said.

The sentencing stage of her case included dramatic, anonymous testimony from one of her sons about years of abuse inflicted on him and his siblings.

“My mother is a monster without love for her children, without an excuse for her actions,” said the son. “She has the blood, pain, and suffering of all of her children on her hands.”

Fluke-Ekren is the rare American woman who occupied a senior position in the ranks of the now defunct Daesh Caliphate.

Born Allison Brooks, she grew up in a “loving and stable home” in Overbrook, Kansas, and was considered a “gifted” student, the US attorney said.

After leaving her first husband, 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 in September 2012 when the militant group Ansar Al-Sharia attacked the US mission and CIA office 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 Daesh and living in the group’s Mosul stronghold for a time.

After Fluke-Ekren’s husband — the leader of a Daesh sniper unit — was killed in 2015 she forced their 13-year-old daughter to marry a Daesh fighter, according to the US attorney.

She married three more times, including to a Daesh military leader who was responsible for the defense of Raqqa in 2017.

In 2017, Fluke-Ekren became the leader of a battalion of female Daesh 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.