No virgins for him: Palestinian-American IS fighter surrenders to Iraqi Kurds
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) – A 26-year-old man fighting with the Islamic State group gave himself up to Iraqi Kurdish forces in northern Iraq on Monday and when asked, said he is a Palestinian from the United States.
His driving license, posted on social media, had Alexandria, Virginia, as his home address and though U.S. authorities have yet to confirm whether he is an American citizen, the incident marked a rare voluntary surrender in Iraq of a militant fighting with the extremist group.
The IS fighter had been “lurking near the peshmerga lines” since late Sunday night, according to Maj. Gen. Feisal Helkani of the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces who play a key role – along with the Iraqi military and Shiite militia forces – in battling the IS extremists.
“Then in the morning, he walked across and gave himself up,” Helkani said, adding the man is a Palestinian-American who was fighting with IS in Iraq.
The surrender took place on the front lines near the town of Sinjar, which was retaken by Iraqi forces from IS militants late last year.
Helkani identified the man as Mohammed Jamal Amin and said he was carrying with him a large amount of cash, three cell phones and three forms of identification, including a U.S. driving license. The IS fighter is currently being held by the peshmerga troops for interrogation, Helkani added.
The Iraqi Kurdish general did not provide further details or a hometown for the man but a photograph of an American driving license said to belong to the IS fighter was posted on social media, identifying him as Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, from Alexandria, Virginia.
The discrepancy between the fighter’s family name on the license and the one provided by the Kurdish general could not immediately be reconciled. His first name was also spelled differently.
In grainy cell phone footage, also posted on social media shortly after the surrender, the man is seen on a hillside, standing with his hands behind his back, head slightly bowed. He is surrounded by Iraqi Kurdish troops and responds to an officer’s questions. He says he is from the United States and that he is Palestinian. In response to the interrogator’s question, he says he was in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which has been under IS control since the jihadi group blitzed across Iraq to capture much of the country’s north and west in the summer of 2014.
In the Kingstowne neighborhood of Fairfax County, listed as Khweis’ home on the driver’s license, a man who said he is Khweis’ father said he was leaving to meet with authorities to find out what they knew. He became angry when a reporter tried to ask him about his son and suggested it was unfair to ask him to account for his grown son.
“He’s 26. Almost 27. He’s a grown man, just like you,” he told a reporter.
We know, we know. It’s a religion of
disturbing the peace with a tiny minority of extremists. Poll: 60% of Palestinians support attacks
Muhammad Jamal Amin is a Virginia-born American citizen of a Palestinian father and Iraqi mother from Mosul.
According to the Peshmerga commander of the Shingal front who didn’t want to be named, the ISIS militant had mistaken the Peshmerga territory for the Turkish border.
The commander said that Amin had entered Syria from Turkey two months ago from where he had traveled to Mosul.
On his way back to Turkey he had mistakenly walked into the Peshmerga hands.
The Peshmerga commander said that a number of cell phones, some money and ID cards were seized from the militant.
The Peshmerga fired on him before he reached their base and later detained him.
After the driver’s license was released, reporters showed up outside of the Fairfax County address listed on the license where they encountered an agitated man claiming to be the fighter’s father, Jamal Khweis.
One reporter for WUSA even claimed that Khweis hit a camerawoman.
Witnesses said that Khweis became angry when one reporter asked him about his son, and he then told them it was unfair to hold him accountable for his adult son’s actions.
‘He’s 26. Almost 27. He’s a grown man, just like you,’ he reportedly told a journalist.
In a video of the confrontation Khweis shouts, ‘this is the wrong information. I’m telling you’, while a younger man tries to shoo the horde of media away.
‘Tell us the right answers,’ a cameraman says.
The younger man begins pushing the lenses of all the cameras away, walking down the line of media.
‘Stop taking the pictures’ the Khweis says
Reporters begin asking him if he’s a relative of ‘Mohamad’, to which he acts like he can’t hear what they are saying and continues shouting it’s the ‘wrong information’
‘The people will talk because you’ve made this whole area about taking bad pictures of me,’ Khweis says in the video.
He continues to tell them to leave and that they have the wrong information, but the reporters continue to try and ask questions.
He tells them he’s just come back from the state department and is going to ‘sue them all’.
‘This is my wife she’s not from Iaq. I’m not related to anybody. It’s a media mixup.’
‘All of this is a lie and all of this is false information,’ Khweis tells them.
Video of the irate father at the link.