Update: A Kansas woman who pleaded guilty to leading an all-female ISIS battalion in Syria was on Tuesday handed the maximum possible sentence: 20 years. The AP reports two of Allison Fluke-Ekren's children asked the judge to give her that sentence, alleging they suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their mother, who led a battalion of about 100 women and girls who were trained in the use of weapons and suicide belts. Fluke-Ekren had requested a 2-year sentence so she could raise her younger children. In a lengthy speech, she reportedly assumed responsibility for her actions but gave extensive rationalizations for them. Our original story from June follows:
A US woman accused of leading a female Islamic State battalion in Syria pleaded guilty Tuesday, resolving what prosecutors called a first-of-its-kind case. Former Kansas resident Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, "broke down sobbing" after admitting to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization in federal court in Alexandria, Va., the AP reports. First Assistant US Attorney Raj Parekh said it was the first time a female ISIS battalion leader had been prosecuted in the US. Experts say it's rare for women to face international terrorism charges as groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are dominated by men.
Fluke-Ekren left the US in 2008 and moved between Egypt, Libya, and Turkey before settling in Syria in 2014. Her second husband—who claimed to have removed documents from the US Special Mission in Benghazi during the 2012 attack—was then a leader in charge of ISIS snipers, per USA Today. She reportedly discussed a desire to conduct a terrorist attack on a US shopping mall or college campus before her husband's death in 2016. Fluke-Ekren then created a women's center in Raqqa that offered medical services, child care, and also self-defense and advanced weapons training to females, prosecutors said. She reportedly trained more than 100 women and girls to use automatic rifles, grenades, and suicide belts through the all-female battalion known as Khatiba Nusaybah.
Some girls as young as 10 or 11 suffered "lifelong trauma and pain," and may now wish to speak at Fluke-Ekren's Oct. 25 sentencing hearing, Parekh said, per the AP. Fluke-Ekren— who cried at the mention of her children (she has five, including two adults in the US who want no contact with her), per CNN—denied that she intentionally trained young girls. Regardless, she faces up to 20 years in prison. She was returned to the US in January after her arrest in Syria last year. Per the AP, she separated from ISIS in 2019 and was smuggled out of the region. She has said she tried to turn herself in at a Syrian police station last summer, hoping to leave the country, just two weeks before she was detained. (Read more Islamic State stories.)