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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

Friday, October 27, 2017

American Sentenced to 20 Years for Joining ISIS

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An Alexandria man was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 28, was convicted by a federal jury on June 7. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Khweis left the United States in mid-December 2015, and ultimately crossed into Syria through the Republic of Turkey in late December 2015. Before leaving, Khweis strategically planned his travel. Using a sophisticated scheme of tradecraft, Khweis purposefully traveled to other countries first before entering Turkey to conceal his final destination. During his travel to the Islamic State, he used numerous encrypted devices to conceal his activity, and downloaded several applications on his phone that featured secure messaging or anonymous web browsing. Khweis used these applications to communicate with ISIS facilitators to coordinate and secure his passage to the Islamic State.

“The evidence at trial demonstrated that Mohamad Khweis is an unpredictable and dangerous person who was radicalized towards violent jihad,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division. “This office, along with the National Security Division and our investigative partners, are committed to tracking down anyone who provides or attempts to provide material support to a terrorist organization.”

After arriving in Syria, Khweis stayed at a safe house with other ISIS recruits in Raqqa and filled out ISIS intake forms, which included his name, age, skills, specialty before jihad, and status as a fighter. When Khweis joined ISIS, he agreed to be a suicide bomber. In February 2017, the United States military recovered his intake form, along with an ISIS camp roster that included Khweis’ name with 19 other ISIS fighters.

“Today's sentencing of Mohamad Khweis demonstrates the relentless efforts of the FBI and our partners within the Joint Terrorism Task Force, whom work 24/7 to identify individuals who pose a risk or harm to U.S. persons or interests,” said Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. “Khweis purposefully traveled overseas with the intent to join ISIS in support of the terrorist group's efforts to conduct operations and execute attacks to further their radical ideology. Khweis recognized that ISIS uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber.”

During the trial, the evidence showed that Khweis spent 2 1/2 months as an ISIS member, traveled with ISIS fighters to multiple safe houses, participated in ISIS-directed religious training, attended ISIS lectures and constantly watched military videos with his fellow ISIS members for inspiration, frequently gave money to ISIS members, and was forward deployed to Tal Afar, Iraq, before he was captured. Kurdish Peshmerga military forces detained Khweis in March 2016. A Kurdish Peshmerga official testified at trial that he captured Khweis on the battlefield after Khweis left an ISIS-controlled neighborhood in Tal Afar.

On cross-examination, Khweis admitted he consistently lied to United States and Kurdish officials about his involvement with ISIS, and that he omitted telling United States officials about another American who had trained with ISIS to conduct an attack in the United States.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick and Trial Attorney Raj Parekh of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force provided assistance in this case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:16-cr-143.

National Security
Joshua Stueve Director of Communications
Updated October 27, 2017