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American-born ISIS bride not a citizen, judge rules

Hoda Muthana will not be allowed to return to the U.S. after traveling to Syria to join the extremists in 2014.
Image: Hoda Muthana, who left Alabama for the Islamic State group's self-declared caliphate four years ago, at the Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria.
Hoda Muthana at a refugee camp in Syria, Feb. 17, 2019.Ivor Prickett / The New York Times via Redux

A federal judge has ruled that Hoda Muthana, an American-born woman who moved to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group, is not a U.S. citizen.

In an interview with NBC News earlier this month, Muthana said she believes she “deserves a second chance” to return to the United States after publicly renouncing the extremist ideology she once espoused freely online.

The New Jersey-born woman left the U.S. in 2014 to join the terrorist group, and burned her U.S. passport shortly after arriving in Syria. She went on to marry three ISIS fighters, all of whom were killed.

Her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, had been suing to secure permission for his daughter to return to the U.S. with her 2-year-old son, Adam.

The case centers on whether Muthana’s father, who originally came to the U.S. as a diplomat for the Yemeni government, still held diplomatic immunity when she was born in 1994. The children of diplomats are not granted the right to citizenship by birthright.

Ahmed Ali Muthana — a naturalized U.S. citizen — says that his posting had concluded in the months before Hoda was born, but the State Department contested this.

In February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NBC News that “Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States.”

“She’s a terrorist,” he added.

While the judge acknowledged that Ahmed Ali Muthana's diplomatic posting had ended before she was born, he accepted the State Department's argument that notification of his status change was not received in time.

Therefore, Hoda Muthana should not have been granted citizenship by birthright and should never have been issued a passport in the first place.

Christina Jump, one of the attorneys acting for Ahmed Ali Muthana, told NBC News that they are "disappointed" and will "very likely appeal" the ruling.

The Alabama-raised woman became notorious for her online postings from Syria designed to recruit foreigners to join the group and commit acts of violence in their home countries.

In one post, she urged American jihadists to target events like Memorial Day and to “go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood.”

Muthana has since said she felt remorse, and indicated that she “regrets every single thing.”

Concerned for her son’s health, she said she wants to return to the U.S. and face justice.

“They can watch over me 24/7, I’d be OK with that,” she told NBC News from the al-Roj refugee camp in northern Syria this month.

“I want my son to be around my family, I want to go to school, I want to have a job and I want to have my own car.”