Kansas woman charged with joining and leading Islamic State battalion

A woman who once lived in Kansas before moving to Egypt and Syria has been charged with joining the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group and leading an all-female battalion of AK-47 wielding militants.

The US attorney in Alexandria, Virginia, announced on Saturday that Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, had been arrested and charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization.

The complaint was filed under seal in 2019 and made public after Fluke-Ekren was brought back to the US. Her alleged participation in IS was not publicly known before the Saturday announcement.

Prosecutors say Fluke-Ekren wanted to recruit operatives to attack a college campus in the US and discussed a terrorist attack on a shopping mall.

An affidavit from an FBI special agent also alleges that Fluke-Ekren became leader of an IS unit called “Khatiba Nusaybah” in Raqqa, a Syrian city, in late 2016. The all-female unit was trained in the use of AK-47 rifles, grenades and suicide belts, the affidavit says.

A detention memo states that Fluke-Ekren trained children how to use assault rifles, and that at least one witness saw one of Fluke-Ekren’s children, approximately five or six years old, holding a machine gun in the family’s home in Syria.

“Fluke-Ekren has been a fervent believer in the radical terrorist ideology of Isis for many years, having traveled to Syria to commit or support violent jihad,” the filing said.

“Fluke-Ekren translated her extremist beliefs into action by serving as the appointed leader and organizer of an Isis military battalion, directly training women and children in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts to support the Islamic State’s murderous aims.”

According to court papers, Fluke-Ekren moved to Egypt in 2008 and traveled between Egypt and the US over the next three years. She has not been in the US since 2011.

Prosecutors believe she moved to Syria around 2012. In early 2016, her husband was killed in the Syrian city of Tell Abyad while trying to carry out a terrorist attack, prosecutors said. Later that year, prosecutors say, she married a Bangladeshi Isis member who specialized in drones, but he died in late 2016 or early 2017. Four months after that man’s death, she married a prominent IS leader responsible for the defense of Raqqa.

Photos from a family blog called 4KansasKids show Fluke-Ekren and her children in the years they traveled between Kansas and Egypt, posing at the pyramids in Egypt and playing in snow in the US.

A 2004 article about homeschooling in the Lawrence Journal-World featured Fluke-Ekren and her children. She told the paper she pulled her children from public school because she was dissatisfied with how they were performing. Homeschooling allowed her to teach them Arabic.

Court papers do not indicate how Fluke-Ekren was captured, or how long she was in custody before being turned over to the FBI. She is scheduled to appear in US district court in Alexandria on Monday.

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