A 27-year-old American ISIS fighter has allegedly been captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces in the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar on Monday morning, a report by the Associated Press says. Local media has identified him as Muhammad Jamal Amin, who left his home in Virginia to fight for the Islamic State.
According to Maj. General Feisal Helkani of the Kurdish forces, Amin was reportedly trying to make his way to Turkey when he was apprehended and detained at a checkpoint in Sinjar by the Kurdish peshmerga, the armed forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The man had been lurking near the front lines since Sunday night.
General Helkani also stated that the fighter had cell phones, a large amount of Turkish money in cash, bank cards, a wallet, and three forms of identification in his possession at the time of his capture, including a Virginia driver’s license. The Kurdish news agency, Rudaw, took photographs of these possessions and broadcast them on television and social media.
Rudaw also reported that Amin is an American citizen, born to a Palestinian father and an Iraqi mother. The reports indicate he had only been in the region fighting with ISIS for a period of about two months after entering Syria from Turkey and then traveling to Iraq. He then made his way to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which has been under ISIS control for more than a year and a half.
It is not immediately clear whether the fighter was captured while trying to pass through the checkpoint to escape to Turkey, or if he surrendered peacefully with the intention of defecting from ISIS. TIME reported that the man mistakingly thought he was crossing the Turkish border.
“The alleged ISIS member traveled to Syria via Turkey two months ago and then towards the Iraqi city of Mosul from there. Kurdish forces told the Kurdish news service that the American had mistakenly thought he was at the Turkish border when he wandered into Kurdish territory and was captured.”
CBS News, on the other hand, claimed there was a shootout between the alleged ISIS fighter and the Kurdish forces, which ended in his surrender the next morning.
“Reports suggested that the peshmerga initially believed the suspect was a suicide bomber, and that they fired warning shots at him, but that he then identified himself as former militant with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who wished to turn himself in.”
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has so far not confirmed that a U.S. citizen was detained. Iraqi security and military officials have also said they have no information about the capture, as Kurdistan is a region that operates largely independent of the Baghdad government. The State Department has not yet confirmed the reports, though it has stated that it was aware of a U.S. citizen allegedly fighting for ISIS in the region.
“We are in touch with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to determine the veracity of these reports,” it said in a statement according to NBC.
The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga are currently playing a key role in the armed struggle against ISIS, and are considered some of the most effective fighting forces on the ground. Sinjar was re-taken from ISIS by Iraqi forces late last year.
According to the Washington Post, federal prosecutors have charged 80 men and women in the United States with accusations of connections with the Islamic State terrorist group. Roughly a dozen Americans are believed to be fighting with the Islamic militants. Despite recent rhetoric about refugees, almost all of those charged were American citizens or permanent residents.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]