A former Kansas teacher organized and led an all-female military battalion on behalf of the Islamic State, federal prosecutors said in a case unsealed late Friday.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, who was charged in May 2019 with providing and conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, a designated terrorist organization, was finally brought to the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday night after she was arrested in Syria.
The feds say Fluke-Ekren left the U.S. in 2008 for Egypt and migrated to Libya then Syria around 2012 with her husband, an ISIS sniper trainer. The pair “were smuggled into Syria because the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia was no longer conducting attacks in Libya, and Fluke-Ekren wished to engage in violent jihad,” one witness allegedly told investigators.
Fluke-Ekren and her husband allegedly brought $15,000 into Syria to buy weapons, grenades and other military supplies. She has been involved in terrorism activities on behalf of ISIS since at least 2014, prosecutors say.
According to a criminal complaint that includes observations from six people who witnessed Fluke-Ekren’s activities from 2014 to around 2017, she allegedly played a role in planning and recruiting operatives for a potential attack on an American college campus. The plot never manifested because she fell pregnant, the complaint said.
One witness recounted Fluke-Ekren presenting the plan to target the unnamed college, alleging saying the idea came out of a desire to seek “vengeance” after children were killed when a market area in Syria was bombed by airstrikes that she blamed on the United States.
Fluke-Ekren was also a leader and organizer of an ISIS military battalion known as the Nusaybah Battalion, and she trained women and kids to use AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts, the criminal complaint says.
She provided lodging for ISIS recruits, taught extremist doctrine to kids, and translated speeches from Turkish and Arabic to be disseminated online for ISIS leaders, prosecutors allege.
A witness told FBI agents that on one occasion, they saw one of Fluke-Ekren’s sons, who she said was roughly 5 or 6, holding a machine gun during a visit to her home, which often had assault rifles laying around.
A family member of Fluke-Ekren’s also described her as a “jihadist” and an “ISIS member,” allegedly telling investigators that she “does not like America or Americans.” She once talked about going to a U.S. shopping mall and detonating a car piled with explosives in a parking garage, the family member said, though she suppoedly didn’t follow through because her husband objected.
According to the complaint, the family member said that, in spite of her husband’s resistance, Fluke-Ekren “admitted that she fantasized about conducting other attacks,” and “considered any attack that did not kill a large number of individuals to be a waste of resources.”
After the sniper-trainer husband died in an airstrike, prosecutors say Fluke-Ekren moved to ISIS headquarters in Raqqa in 2012 and married a drone specialist who also died about five years later. She then wed a military leader who oversaw the defense of Raqqa.
In 2017, a witness who became involved with the Nusaybah Battalion while living in Raqqa told investigators that the group was “an all-female ISIS military unit,” whose objective “was to train the women of ISIS to fight.”
Its members were allegedly instructed on physical training, medical training, religious classes and on packing a “go bag” stuffed with rifles and military supplies. Some of these classes were taught by Fluke-Ekren, witnesses told investigators.
According to the complaint, Fluke-Ekren arranged for a message to be sent to her family in the U.S. in 2018 claiming she was dead as part of an effort to avoid capture. She also allegedly told a witness she never wanted to return to the U.S. and intended to die as a martyr, prosecutors say.
Fluke-Ekren has an initial court appearance scheduled for Monday. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.