WASHINGTON — An American woman accused of leading an all-female ISIS battalion and training the group's fighters for a hypothetical attack on a U.S. college campus was transferred to the FBI's custody Friday ahead of her trial on terrorism charges.
Allison Fluke-Ekren is charged with providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
According to a 2019 criminal complaint against Fluke-Ekren, she left Kansas for Egypt alongside her then-husband sometime in 2008. After living there until 2011 and traveling to Libya for a year, the former teacher and her husband were allegedly smuggled into Syria along with $15,000, which they used to purchase weapons for the terrorist group.
In a memo unsealed Friday ahead of her initial appearance in a U.S. court, filed in support of her continued detention, the Dept. of Justice cites a witness who said Fluke-Ekren and her husband left Libya for Syria in 2012 because "the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia was no longer conducting attacks in Libya, and Fluke-Ekren wished to engage in violent jihad."
Over the next several years, she moved up the ISIS ranks to lead a military division known as the Khatiba Nusayabah, government officials contend.
The Khatiba Nusayabah are an all-female battalion made up of women married to ISIS fighters. Fluke-Ekren allegedly trained more than 100 women to use AK-47 rifles, grenades and suicide belts; she is also accused in the complaint of training children to use suicide belts and teaching them "extremist ISIS doctrine."
The FBI agent who detailed in the complaint her alleged involvement with ISIS contends Fluke-Ekren trained the Khatiba Nusayabah to defend the city of Raqqa during the assault on the city by Syrian defense forces in 2017. She departed the city months before the siege began, but all women who stayed through it were reportedly required to attend her training sessions.
According to the detention memo, ISIS leaders were pleased by the optics of having Fluke-Ekren leading the classes.
"One witness observed that the leaders of ISIS and the other members of the military battalion were proud to have an American instructor," the document said.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Fluke-Ekren expressed a deep interest in high-casualty attacks on U.S. soil. One witness cited by the government allegedly was told directly by Fluke-Ekren that she had received approval and some funding for a plan to bomb a U.S. college.
The plan, the witness said, was relatively simple: sneak into the U.S. via Mexico through a route Fluke-Ekren reportedly knew about, then dress as "infidels" and drop off a backpack loaded with explosives on campus and leaving it to explode. The attack would "not be a suicide mission," she allegedly told the witness.
The criminal complaint contends that the attack was put on hold when Fluke Ekren became pregnant.
Another plan Fluke-Ekren came up with, according to a witness the FBI identified as one of her family members in Syria, was similarly uncomplicated. She would drive a car filled with explosives into the basement or parking structure of a U.S. mall and then detonate the charge via cell phone from far away. According to the witness, this plan never advanced because her now-deceased husband objected.
The family member told the FBI that Fluke-Ekren fantasized about bombing U.S. civilians and "believed a location was a good target if it contained large amounts of congregating people." She allegedly considered any attack that didn't have a high body count to be a waste of resources, and wished that attacks she heard about in other countries had happened in the U.S. instead.
If convicted of both providing and conspiring to provide support to ISIS, Fluke-Ekren faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although federal crimes typically earn less than the maximum penalties.
She is expected to appear at the U.S. District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia Monday for her initial court appearance. It is unclear if she has an attorney representing her.