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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

American who 'regretted' joining ISIL gets 20 year sentence

Mohammed Jamal Khweis left his job driving a bus for disabled people in northern Virginia in December 2015 to travel to Syria

This photo, provided by the US District Court, Alexandria, is of Mohammed Jamal Khweis, 27, the only American citizen to be convicted in a US jury trial of successfully joining ISIL overseas. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on October 27, 2017. US District Court, Alexandria, Va / The Associated Press
This photo, provided by the US District Court, Alexandria, is of Mohammed Jamal Khweis, 27, the only American citizen to be convicted in a US jury trial of successfully joining ISIL overseas. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on October 27, 2017. US District Court, Alexandria, Va / The Associated Press

A 27-year-old American who joined ISIL in Syria and later claimed he escaped and fled into the hands of Kurdish troops after a "bad decision" was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Mohammed Jamal Khweis left his job driving a bus for disabled people in northern Virginia in December 2015 to travel to ISIL's stronghold of Raqqa.

He spent about two and a half months as a member of ISIL, taking part in religious training and staying in various safe houses, allegedly preparing to be a suicide bomber.

He was detained by Kurdish peshmerga fighters in March 2016 in Tal Afar, Iraq, and later claimed he escaped the extremists, telling a Kurdish television station in Erbil that he did not see them as "good Muslims".

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation rejected his claims, saying he clearly had sought to join the group, selling his car and leaving home without telling anyone.

"The evidence at trial demonstrated that Mohammed Khweis is an unpredictable and dangerous person who was radicalised towards violent jihad," said Dana Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

"Khweis purposefully travelled overseas with the intent to join [ISIL] in support of the terrorist group's efforts to conduct operations and execute attacks to further their radical ideology," added Andrew Vale, the Washington field office director for the FBI.

"Khweis recognised that [ISIL] uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber."

A federal jury convicted Khweis on June 8 on all three charges against him, including providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to ISIL, and a related firearms count.

He faced a maximum life sentence.