Mohamad Jamal Khweis, a 28-year-old American citizen, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and providing material support to them, CBS News reports. Jamal, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia, was handed over the sentence four months after he was convicted by a federal jury in June, the Justice Department said on Friday.
According to authorities, Jamal left the U.S in 2015 to join the ISIS. He first traveled to Turkey following which he crossed into Syria. He joined the ISIS in late 2015 and spent more than 2.5 months as an active ISIS fighter. He was, however, caught by Kurdish forces in 2016 following which he was handed over to U.S. authorities. During his time as an ISIS fighter, he had also agreed to be a suicide bomber.
Dana J. Boente, the acting assistant attorney general for national security and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, described Mohamad Khweis as an unpredictable and dangerous person who was radicalized towards violent jihad. The Department of Justice said Khweis had used encrypted devices and mobile applications to hide his activity from the investigators. Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said that Khweis was fully aware of what he wanted and that he had "purposefully traveled overseas with the intent to join ISIS in support of the terrorist group's efforts to conduct operations and execute attacks to further their radical ideology."
"Khweis recognized that ISIS uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber," Vale added.
However, in a 2016 interview, Khweis claimed that he surrendered after he realized that he did not really agree with the ISIS ideology, something he figured out only after he reached Syria. He claimed that he was disheartened by the fact that he had nothing substantial to do after he joined ISIS and that most of his days there were spent praying, eating, and learning about radical Islam.
Kweis is a graduate of Alexandria's Thomas Edison High School from where he graduated in 2007. His classmates described him as just another guy who attended classes regularly. He did not seem to be particularly religious, and he was not treated as an outcast either. Meanwhile, several people are of the opinion that the 20-year sentence handed over to him was "too light" and that he could be still a danger to society when he walks out of jail 20 years from now. If he completes his sentence, he will be 48-years-old at the time of his release in 2037.
[Featured Image By U.S. District Court, Alexandria, Virginia/AP Images]