US woman accused of leading all-female ISIL unit pleads guilty

US Justice Department says more than ‘100 women and young girls’ received military training from Allison Fluke-Ekren.

Allison Fluke-Ekren
Allison Fluke-Ekren faces up to 20 years in jail [Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP]

An American woman accused of leading an all-female ISIL (ISIS) battalion has pleaded guilty in United States court to conspiring to provide material support to a “terrorist” organisation.

Allison Fluke-Ekren entered her plea at a federal courtroom in Northern Virginia near Washington, DC. She faces up to 20 years in Jail, the US Justice Department said.

“Over 100 women and young girls, including as young as 10 or 11-years-old, received military training from Fluke-Ekren in Syria on behalf of ISIS,” the US Department of Justice said in a statement on Tuesday.

Fluke-Ekren, who had been captured in Syria, was brought to the US late in January to face charges. She will be sentenced on October 25.

“Fluke-Ekren sought to motivate her trainees by explaining how female fighters can ensure the Islamic State is kept alive by ‘helping ISIS expand and to remain’ through the use of weapons, including automatic firing AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts packed with explosives,” the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

A criminal complaint dated 2019, which was unsealed earlier this year, cited the testimonies of several witnesses who told US officials that Fluke-Ekren discussed waging attacks in the US and had translated ISIL material into English.

“According to a witness, in or about late 2016, the ‘Wali’ (or ISIS-appointed mayor) of Raqqa, Syria, allegedly permitted the opening of the ‘Khatiba Nusaybah,’ which was a military battalion comprised solely of female ISIS members who were married to male ISIS fighters,” the Department of Justice said in a statement in January.

“Shortly thereafter, Fluke-Ekren allegedly became the leader and organizer of the battalion.”

It added that the all-women brigade was active during the 2017 siege of Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital and one of its last territorial strongholds until the Syrian city was seized by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

US authorities said the unit offered medical and physical training as well as weapon preparation courses, some of which were taught by Fluke-Ekren herself.

Fluke-Ekren, whose family is from the US Midwest, worked as a teacher in the US before leaving the country and subsequently joining ISIL in Syria, according to the Department of Justice.

ISIL controlled large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria from 2014 until its territorial defeat late in 2017. During that time, the group, which had declared a “caliphate” and inspired attacks on civilian targets across the world, attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including from Europe and the US.

Late in April, a US judge sentenced Alexanda Kotey, a British-born former member of the ISIL cell known as “the Beatles”, to life in prison.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies