MIAMI — A U.S. citizen who moved his family to Syria to join the Islamic State terrorist group has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Emraan Ali, 55, a U.S. citizen born in Trinidad and Tobago, was sentenced Tuesday in Miami federal court, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
According to court records, Ali moved his family from Trinidad and Tobago to Brazil, and then to Turkey and eventually Syria in March 2015. He falsely told his children that they were going on vacation but actually intended to join IS, prosecutors said.
After arriving in Syria, IS registered Ali and his family, and Ali underwent IS religious and military training with other English speakers, officials said. The training included instruction on the operation of various automatic weapons such as the AK-47 assault rifle and PKC machine gun.
Ali was eventually discharged from combat duty and worked in residential construction for IS in the group’s then-de facto capital of Raqqa, investigators said. Ali also became a merchant and began buying and selling livestock, cars, weapons, weapons accessories and telephones to and from other IS members. Ali also provided money remitting services to other Trinidadian IS fighters in Syria and donated his own money to IS members to support the IS cause.
Ali and his family relocated within Syria several times over the years, officials said. Ali and his son, 22-year-old Jihad Ali, surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces near Baghuz in March 2019, during the last sustained Islamic State group battles to maintain territory in Syria, officials said. They were later transferred to FBI custody and returned to the U.S. The son, who was born in New York and began IS military and religious training at 15 years old, was previously sentenced to five years in prison.
Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, the militant group’s sleeper cells still carry out deadly attacks in both Syria and Iraq where they once declared a “caliphate.”