Oct. 30 (UPI) — A 28-year-old Virginia man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for joining Islamic State, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
Mohamad Jamal Khweis was convicted in June of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization after he left the United States in December 2015, and traveled to Syria to join Islamic State. Khweis spent more than two months with Islamic State in Syria, where he took in lectures, watched military videos, gave money to other members and signed a form that said he’d be willing to be a suicide bomber, the DOJ said.
“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,” said Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Khweis recognized that [Islamic State] uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber.”
After his stint in Syria, Khweis was transferred to an Islamic State-controlled area of Iraq, where he soon turned himself in to U.S.-allied Iraqi Kurdish Forces in March 2016 and said he regretted joining Islamic State.
“I made a bad decision to go… to Mosul,” Khweis told Kurdistan 24 soon after surrendering. “At the time I made the decision, I was not thinking straight. On the way there I regretted, and I wanted to go back home after things didn’t work out and I saw myself living in such an environment.”
Khweis also said he became disenchanted with the way of life for an Islamic State militant.
“Our daily life was basically prayer, eating, and learning about the religion for about eight hours,” he said, adding: “I didn’t complete the whole Sharia [Islamic Law]. I didn’t agree with their ideology. That’s when I wanted to escape.”
But the DOJ said that on cross-examination, Khweis admitted to lying to U.S. officials about his involvement with Islamic State and that he “omitted telling U.S. officials about another American who had trained with [Islamic State] to conduct an attack in the United States.”
“The evidence at trial demonstrated that Mohamad Khweis is an unpredictable and dangerous person who was radicalized towards violent jihad,” said Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.