- Fluke-Ekren led a violent jihad in Libya, Iraq and Syria for eight years, prosecutors said.
- She trained women and children in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts.
- Fluke-Ekren’s lawyers argued she deserved a shorter sentence after the trauma and loss she suffered.
WASHINGTON — A Kansas woman who pleaded guilty to supporting the Islamic State terrorist group, including training a battalion of women and girls to fight with rifles and explosives, will be sentenced Tuesday and face 20 years in prison.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, who was born in Lawrence, Kansas, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to support the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham, known as ISIS. Counter-terrorism experts said she represented an unusual case of a woman commanding power in the traditionally male-dominated culture of Islamic jihad.
Fluke-Ekren, whose father and grandfather were U.S. military veterans, committed acts of terrorism over eight years in Libya, Iraq and Syria and planned mass attacks in the U.S., according to prosecutors.
The maximum 20 years in prison would not be enough to punish her, but it should be imposed, the prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
But her lawyers urged Brinke to order an unspecified shorter sentence because of the trauma and loss she has experienced. Three of her husbands and two children died overseas. She suffered PTSD in Syria and left the violence behind when she left ISIS in May 2019, her lawyers said.
In Syria, she served as the leader of an all-female ISIS military battalion and trained women and children in the use of assault rifles, grenades and AK-47 suicide belts on behalf of ISIS, she admitted. She has trained more than 100 women and girls as young as 10, the statement said.
In addition to the terror charges, prosecutors found during the sentencing investigation that her oldest son and daughter had accused her of physical and sexual abuse as children.
“Allison Fluke-Ekren brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh said in a sentencing memorandum. “She set out on a path of terror, plunging her own children into unfathomable depths of cruelty by physically, psychologically, emotionally and sexually abusing them.”
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But Fluke-Ekren denied the allegations of abuse. According to her lawyers, Joseph King and Sean Sherlock, she called the allegations in the sentencing memorandum “inaccurate, exaggerated, hyperbolic and in many cases completely false.”
Fluke-Ekren’s son calls her a ‘monster’
Fluke-Ekren grew up on a “picturesque and bucolic” 81-acre farm in Overbrook, Kansas, in a “loving and stable home,” according to prosecutors. Her grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and her father served in the Army in Vietnam, prosecutors noted.
But one of her daughters told authorities that teenage Fluke-Ekren tormented her brother, who is a year younger than her, “for fun” and tried to drown him in an icy lake, according to court documents.
According to court records, she became pregnant at age 16 and married her first husband, James Fluke, in 1996. She had a son and a daughter with him before divorcing in 2002. Fluke called her a “con artist” and told authorities that “something is deeply broken in that woman,” according to prosecutors.
Fluke-Ekren’s son, who was not named in court documents, recounted years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from her. She choked him unconscious, locked him in tight spaces until he pooped, and poured salt or chemicals into his wounds. he said.
“My mother is a monster who enjoys torturing children for sexual pleasure,” said her son, who is scheduled to attend the sentencing in Alexandria, Virginia. “My mother is a monster very skilled at manipulating and controlling her emotions to her advantage.
Fluke-Ekrena’s daughter also said she was molested as a child. The daughter said she was slapped so hard in Egypt as a 6-year-old that her face was bruised in the shape of her mother’s fingers, according to court records.
“My mother would beat my body so my muscles would spasm in agony,” her daughter said.
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Lawyers for Fluke-Ekren said they did not have the time or resources to fight the allegations. But among the points they made was that she remembered her father being “disapproving, distant, fake and judgmental” and her mother suffering from “severe and incapacitating depression”.
Lawyers argued they would have to subpoena pediatrician records from Kansas, school records from Indiana, where her children attended school, medical records from Egypt and Turkey, and also hear witnesses in the Middle East.
“She vehemently denies the allegations of abuse and many of the characterizations of her in these paragraphs and points out that her large extended family has made no prior complaints against her to any authority,” her lawyers said.
Fluke-Ekren admitted to aiding terrorists and training women in the use of weapons
Fluke-Ekren’s split from the U.S. came after she finished college and graduate school and moved to the Middle East, according to court records that charted her journey from Kansas mother to overseas terrorist.
She met her second husband, Volkan Ekren, and converted to Islam while studying biology at the University of Kansas. After graduating in December 2006, she taught math and science at a school in Wichita, Kansas, before starting a graduate teaching program at Earlham College in Indiana in June 2007.
She moved to Cairo, Egypt with the children and Ekren in 2008. She ended up having six more children with him. Her father, stepmother and then 11-year-old son said she fled the U.S. to avoid repaying student loans totaling $86,817.
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It appeared on the scene of terror after the September 11, 2012, attack in Libya on the US government offices in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed. Ekren claimed he removed a box of documents and electronic equipment from the premises, and she helped him compile the records, according to court records. The documents and equipment were eventually turned over to leaders of the Ansar al-Sharia terrorist group in Benghazi, according to court records.
While in Syria in 2014, Fluke-Ekren told a witness that she wanted to detonate a vehicle full of explosives at an American mall. She also spoke about the bombing of an American college in the Midwest in retaliation for an airstrike near Syria’s al-Bab that killed children, prosecutors he said. Those attacks never happened.
Lawyers for Fluke-Ekren questioned the credibility of the witnesses in the deposition report, which remains under seal, compared to their earlier testimony. on plans of attack.
Fluke-Ekren created a women’s military battalion, called Khatiba Nusaybah, in February 2017 to train women to help defend Raqqa, Syria. according to court documents.
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She lost three husbands to the fighting. Ekren, a sniper leader for ISIS, was killed in a 2016 U.S. airstrike in Tel Abyad, Syria, according to court records. Her third husband, Mohammed Zafer, a Bangladeshi ISIS member who specialized in drones, was killed in a 2016 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, according to court records. She had three children with him.
Her fourth husband, Mohammed Doe, another Bangladeshi ISIS member responsible for defending Raqqa, died in combat there in 2018, according to court records. Ekren and Doe both “emotionally controlled and abused” her, her lawyers said.
The Fluke-Ekren case stood out because ISIS leaders are not typically women
Indictments of women in international terrorism are extremely rare, experts say, because men tend to dominate misogynistic groups such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, and related groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. world.
But a dozen cases over the past decade of U.S. citizens or permanent residents have revealed that women have abandoned traditional watchdog roles to recruit comrades, train others in the use of rifles and explosives, and even kill.
After Doe’s death, Fluke-Ekren left ISIS in May 2019, according to her lawyers. She was smuggled out of ISIS-controlled territory, raised her children and married her fifth husband, Mahmoud Mustafa, a non-ISIS Syrian, according to her lawyers.
She was trying to “bring security and stability to her children and allow herself to settle down and live as normal a life as possible,” her lawyers said.
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She worked for an NGO and taught at a school for about 50 children that opened in January 2020 in Qobassin, Syria, according to her lawyers.
After separating from Mustafa, she tried to surrender to the local police in the summer of 2021. She was arrested two weeks later and held for seven months before being transferred to the US in January 2022, according to court records.
“Her life after leaving ISIS reflected her rejection of violence,” her lawyers said.