By Julia Harte
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Virginia man who allegedly trained with Islamic State for nearly one month earlier this year was charged with providing material support to the militant group, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a complaint unsealed on Thursday.
Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, was detained and taken into custody by Kurdish forces in northern Iraq in March. He will have his initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia this afternoon, a Justice Department statement said.
Khweis, a U.S. citizen, told FBI agents that he became interested in joining Islamic State in mid-2015, after watching many videos of the group’s members executing prisoners, including a video showing the burning of a Jordanian pilot, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint against him.
Khweis admitted in interviews with FBI agents that after traveling to Syria, via Europe and Turkey, to join the group, he arrived at a safe house in Raqqa, Syria, and answered “yes” when a member of Islamic State asked if he wanted to be a suicide bomber, the affidavit said.
He also participated in religious training with the group in Mosul, Iraq, but said he only touched a firearm once in order to move it aside so he could sit on a couch, according to the affidavit.
Khweis is one of nearly 90 individuals whom the U.S. Justice Department has charged with Islamic State-related crimes.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey has said the number of Americans attempting to join Islamic State has dropped since August to roughly one per month from eight per month.
When Khweis was taken into custody in March, one of the Kurdish officers who arrested him told Reuters at the time that he appeared to be trying to escape Islamic State as well as evade the Kurdish forces.
Khweis was carrying a Virginia driver’s license at that point, but he admitted to U.S. agents that he burned his laptop computer and destroyed two mobile phones prior to being detained by the Kurdish forces, according to the affidavit.
(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)