A former US schoolteacher who became a high-ranking Islamic State official and organized an all-female IS military battalion, pleaded guilty Tuesday to supporting a foreign terrorist group, the Justice Department said.
Kansas-born Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, admitted to engaging in "terrorism-related activities" in Syria, Libya, and Iraq between 2011 and 2019.
"Fluke-Ekren ultimately served as the leader and organizer of an ISIS military battalion, known as the Khatiba Nusaybah, where she trained women on the use of automatic firing AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts," the department said.
"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 (Islamic State)."
Her husband was a member of the extremist Ansar al-Sharia group which attacked the US mission in Bebghazi, Libya in 2012, and then became a leader of an Islamic State sniper group in Syria.
The department said the two were involved in extremist activities across the Middle East after they left the United States in 2011.
While in Syria, the department said, she spoke of desires to bomb a US shopping mall or university.
In 2016-17 she became leader of the all-woman Khatiba Nusaybah battalion, which undertook physical, medical and weapons training to support Islamic state.
Fluke-Ekren was apprehended in Syria sometime after the early-2019 territorial defeat of Islamic State, and flown to the United States on January 28.
The court record indicates that her attorneys and the Justice Department spent months negotiating her guilty plea on a single count, supporting a foreign terrorist organization, a charge which brings up to 20 years in prison.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25.
- Born on Kansas farm -
Fluke-Ekren was apparently notorious even inside Islamic State, where she carried the nom de guerre Umm Mohammed al-Amriki.
On a ten-point scale of radicalization, a person who knew her in Syria called her "an 11 or a 12."
She was born on a Kansas farm and grew up Christian in Topeka, where she was known as a bright student.
"Never would any of us who knew her back then ever thought she would end up as she has today," Larry Miller, a retired science teacher, told the Topeka Capital-Journal in January.
She married a man named Fluke and had two children. They split and she married Volkan Ekren, a Muslim with whom she had at least three more children.
As Fluke-Ekren, she studied at the University of Kansas and then earned a master's degree in teaching from a college in Indiana.
In a 2004 article in the Lawrence Journal-World, Fluke-Ekren is shown wearing a headscarf while home-schooling her two eldest children, which included regular Arabic lessons.
The family moved to Egypt in 2008. Her personal blog showed the family celebrating birthdays, taking a cruise on the Nile and visiting the Pyramids.
- Joining extremists -
But the Justice department suggested her husband was already involved with radical Islamists at that time.
They moved to Libya in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring uprisings and the beginning of the Libyan civil war.
They were in Banghazi in September 2012 when Ansar al-Sharia attacked the US mission and CIA office there, killing the US ambassador and three others.
Her husband took documents and an electronic device from the fire-charred compound and Fluke-Ekren helped him analyze the contents for the group, the Justice Department said.
They then moved to Turkey and Syria, where they became deeply involved with Islamic State, even living in the group's Mosul, Iraq stronghold for a time.
She told a person she met that wanted to attack a shopping mall back home, and "spoke about learning how to make bombs and explosives," the department said.
"Fluke-Ekren further said that she considered any attack that did not kill a large number of individuals to be a waste of resources," it said.