An American woman from Kansas pleaded guilty Tuesday to assisting ISIS while in Syria, including by organizing and leading an all-female military battalion on behalf of the terrorist group.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, was charged with providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. A 2019 criminal complaint against her was unsealed in January in U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia.
Attorneys representing Fluke-Ekren declined to comment Tuesday.
She and her former husband moved to Egypt in 2008 and then moved to Libya and Turkey before they eventually crossed into Syria in about 2014, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Fluke-Ekren engaged in terrorist activity from around 2011 to 2019, according to the Justice Department.
Fluke-Ekren assisted the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, in a number of projects over the years, eventually heading an all-female group of fighters called Khatiba Nusaybah.
"Over 100 women and young girls, including as young as 10 or 11-years-old, received military training from Fluke-Ekren in Syria on behalf of ISIS," the Justice Department said.
A witness told authorities about meeting Fluke-Ekren after having crossed the border into Syria in 2014, where she was responsible for training women on behalf of the terrorist organization, according to the 2019 criminal complaint.
Her former husband, who was not named, worked as a sniper for ISIS, the complaint said. He was killed in an airstrike in 2016.
Fluke-Ekren described her wish to conduct a terrorist attack on a U.S. shopping mall in detail, according to the complaint. Fluent in English, Arabic and Turkish, she assisted in translating speeches by ISIS leaders to spread online and was involved with planning and recruitment for the organization, witnesses said.
After the death of her husband, Fluke-Ekren married a drone expert whom she worked with to coordinate potential attacks, according to the complaint.
She became the leader and organizer of a battalion, composed solely of female ISIS members who were married to male ISIS fighters, sometime in late 2016, authorities said.
"Fluke-Ekren sought to motivate her trainees by explaining how female fighters can ensure the Islamic State is kept alive by 'helping ISIS expand and to remain' through the use of weapons, including automatic firing AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts packed with explosives," the Justice Department said.
A witness told investigators that Fluke-Ekren said in 2018 that in an attempt to evade U.S. authorities, she had instructed someone to send a message to her family that she had died.
Fluke-Ekren was apprehended in Syria and transferred to FBI custody in January. She faces up to 20 years in prison on the charge and is scheduled to be sentenced in October.