A criminal complaint unsealed in Texas' Northern District Court Thursday alleged that Omer Kuzu, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen, traveled to Istanbul with his brother in October 2014 and from there were both smuggled into Syria by ISIS.
Kuzu told agents that he also traveled to Mosul, Iraq, and received weapons and fighting training from ISIS instructors, but then crossed back into Syria where he was provided an AK-47 and was enlisted by the group to help repair communications equipment.
In early 2019, Kuzu said he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and was recently transferred into FBI custody before being transported back into the U.S. He has already made his first appearance before a federal judge in Dallas.
“There are few things more concerning to me than young Americans being radicalized by terrorists’ violent and hateful agendas while in the U.S., and then traveling abroad in order to fight for groups like ISIS,” said Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “I am grateful for the public servants who helped bring this defendant home to face justice in a U.S. courtroom.”
In a State Department briefing Thursday, Nathan Sales, the State Department's Ambassador at Large for counter terrorism said Americans recently repatriated to the U.S. who face charges for joining ISIS can expect to face "severe penalties."
"To date, we have brought back five adults -- four males and one female who've been charged with a variety of terrorism related crimes -- one convicted, others [have] charges pending," Sales said.
Just last month, Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kazakhstan, was charged with joining ISIS as a sniper and helping to train fighters in the group, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
Despite the Trump administration's efforts to eliminate the ISIS caliphate in the Middle East, law enforcement officials stress that the ideology promoted by ISIS continues to pose a threat both overseas and inside the homeland.
In March, a 20-year-old Georgia woman was charged with helping ISIS by posting a "kill list" online that included the names of State Department employees and American soldiers, according to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
According to the indictment unsealed last week, Kim Anh Vo joined the United Cyber Caliphate in 2016 -- a group that authorities said pledged allegiance to ISIS and was committed to carrying out online attacks and cyber intrusions against Americans. Vo was also accused of working with the UCC to recruit a minor in Norway and others to "create online content in support of ISIS," a DOJ release said.