A federal jury in Alexandria today convicted Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 27, of providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Mohamad Khweis, of the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, left the United States in mid-December 2015, and ultimately crossed into Syria through the Republic of Turkey in late December 2015. Before leaving, Khweis quit his job, sold his car, closed online accounts, and did not tell his family he was leaving to join ISIS. During his travel to the Islamic State, he used numerous encrypted devices to conceal his activity, and downloaded several applications on his phone that featured secure messaging or anonymous web browsing. Khweis used these applications to communicate with ISIS facilitators to coordinate and secure his passage to the Islamic State.
“Khweis is not a naïve kid who didn’t know what he was doing,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is also serving as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “He is a 27-year-old man who studied criminal justice in college. He strategically planned his travel to avoid law enforcement suspicion, encrypted his communications, and planned for possible alibis. Khweis knew exactly what he was doing, knew exactly who ISIS was, and was well aware of their thirst for extreme violence. Nonetheless, this did not deter him. Instead, Khweis voluntarily chose to join the ranks of a designated foreign terrorist organization, and that is a federal crime, even if you get scared and decide to leave. This office, along with the National Security Division and our investigative partners, are committed to tracking down anyone who provides or attempts to provide material support to a terrorist organization.”
After arriving in Syria, Khweis stayed at a safe house with other ISIS recruits in Raqqa and filled out ISIS intake forms, which included his name, age, skills, specialty before jihad, and status as a fighter. When Khweis joined ISIS, he agreed to be a suicide bomber. In February 2017, the United States military recovered his intake form, along with an ISIS camp roster that included Khweis’ name with 19 other ISIS fighters.
“Mohamad Khweis purposefully traveled 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,” said Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Furthermore, when ISIL leaders questioned Khweis’ commitment to serving as a suicide bomber to carry out acts of terrorism, Khweis stated that he agreed and recognized that ISIL uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate. Today’s verdict underscores the dedication of the FBI and our partners within the Joint Terrorism Task Force in pursuing and disrupting anyone who poses a risk of harm to U.S. persons or interests or by providing material support to a terrorist group.”
During the trial, Khweis admitted to spending approximately 2.5 months as an ISIS member, traveling with ISIS fighters to multiple safe houses and participating in ISIS-directed religious training. Kurdish Peshmerga military forces detained Khweis in March 2016. A Kurdish Peshmerga official testified at trial that he captured Khweis on the battlefield after Khweis left an ISIS-controlled neighborhood in Tal Afar, Iraq.
On a cross examination, Khweis admitted he consistently lied to United States and Kurdish officials about his involvement with ISIS, and that he omitted telling United States officials about another American who had trained with ISIS to conduct an attack in the United States.
The jury convicted Khweis on all three charged counts, including providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to ISIS, and a related firearms count. Khweis faces a mandatory minimum of 5 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison when sentenced on Oct. 13, 2017. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
As noted previously, Khweis is the American-born son of Palestinian immigrants.