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US Weighing Options on American ISIS Bride in Syria

US Weighing Options on American ISIS Bride in Syria

Wednesday, 20 February, 2019 - 09:30
Women stroll in a camp for people who were affilated with the ISIS group in the northern Syrian village of Malikiya in September 2018 | AFP
Washington- Asharq Al-Awsat
The United States said Tuesday it wanted to ensure foreign militants remain off the battlefield as it weighed options on an American detained in Syria who says she wants to return home.

The United States has urged European powers to take back hundreds of their citizens who fought with the ISIS terrorist movement in Syria, but acknowledged the situation was complex in the rare case of an American militant.

Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old from Alabama who became a prominent online agitator for the extremists, said in an interview published Sunday with The Guardian that she had been brainwashed online and "deeply regrets" joining the movement.

Muthana left Alabama to join ISIS four years ago at age 19. In Syria, she called for Americans to be attacked, and she spread the group's propaganda online.

She is one of about 1,500 foreign women and children – the spouses and children of ISIS militants – held in a Kurdish-run detention camp in northern Syria.

Muthana is there with her 18-month-old son. The child's father is not alive. Two of her previous husbands, both ISIS militants, are also dead. Muthana is not allowed to leave the camp and has armed guards protecting her from ISIS sympathizers.

While declining to discuss Muthana's case specifically, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said that the status of US citizens detained in Syria "is by definition extremely complicated."

"We're looking into these cases to better understand the details," he told reporters.

Palladino said that the United States generally did not see a different solution between what to do with US fighters and with foreigners, saying the fighters pose "a global threat."

"Repatriating these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin, ensuring that they are prosecuted and detained -- that's the best solution, preventing them from returning to the battlefield," he said.

Hassan Shibly, a lawyer for Muthana, expressed dismay that US government officials had yet to interview her.

"It's really problematic that The (New York) Times, The Guardian and ABC News have all been able to meet with her and interview her, and the government has not been able to do that," AFP quoted Shibly as saying.

The situation of foreign militants detained by US-allied Kurdish forces has taken a new urgency as President Donald Trump plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces say they may have to refocus on fighting Turkey, which has vowed to crush Kurdish fighters it links to separatists at home.

Trump has contemplated reopening the US military base at Guantanamo Bay to take in new foreign inmates, while Britain on Tuesday revoked the citizenship of a female militant who wanted to return home with her newborn baby.

Neither option would likely pass muster in the cases of US citizens, who enjoy strong legal protections under the Constitution.

In the interview with The Guardian, Muthana said that she was "really young and ignorant" when she joined ISIS and has since renounced radicalism.

"I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return and I'll never come back to the Middle East," she told the newspaper.

Shibly said "it's been a difficult journey for her, and she's relieved. She's very resentful to them for having misguided her and having brainwashed her and manipulated her and really destroying her life."

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