On Nov. 1, 2022, in Alexandria, Virginia, Allison Fluke-Ekren was sentenced to 20 years in prison for organizing and leading an all-female military battalion in Syria on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Fluke-Ekren, 42, also is known as a “Umm Mohammed al-Amriki,” and “Umm Mohammed." Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, the Kansas mom who became a terrorist mastermind in Syria and plotted suicide bomb attacks against an American university, got slapped with the max federal prison sentence.
In Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, US District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ordered a 20-year term of incarceration for conspiring to provide material aid to the Islamic State group. A plea deal Fluke-Ekren inked with federal prosecutors on June 6 capped her punishment at 20 years behind bars, but the judge could have slashed the sentence.
“Allison Fluke-Ekren brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill,” wrote federal prosecutors Raj Parekh and John Gibbs in a recent sentencing memorandum. “She carved a path of terror, plunging her own children into unfathomable depths of cruelty by physically, psychologically, emotionally, and sexually abusing them. For at least eight years, Fluke-Ekren committed terrorist acts on behalf of three foreign terrorist organizations across war zones in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. She wanted to carry out mass casualty attacks in the United States. Fluke-Ekren ascended the ranks of ISIS by skillfully using manipulation and exploitation. She ultimately led an ISIS battalion and trained over 100 women and young girls in Syria, some as young as 10-years-old, on the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts packed with explosives, during the terrorist organization’s murderous crusade.”
Fluke-Ekren’s attorneys didn’t return Coffee or Die Magazine’s message seeking comment. She remains confined at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, pending transfer to a federal penitentiary, according to jail records.
A woman accompanies a child, one of 38 from families of suspected Islamic State group members, toward a plane for repatriation to Russia, in Qamishli, Syria, on Oct. 20, 2022. Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria handed over the children, most of whom were described as orphans, to a Russian delegation. Photo by Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images.
A flurry of federal filings over the past few weeks cracked open a case that's often been cloaked by sealed records and concerns about classified information wiggling out of the courtroom.
It traces her pathway from an 81-acre Kansas farm in Overbrook that’s been in her family since 1880, to a Syrian refugee camp.
The granddaughter of a World War II sailor who served on board the troop carrier West Point, and the daughter of a US Army soldier who fought in Vietnam, she studied at Topeka Collegiate, a private school designed to land gifted students at the best universities.
But her father described her as a “difficult teenager” who was expelled in her sophomore year for truancy. She started waiting tables at a local eatery and told her friends she planned to get pregnant and then married.
A Syrian woman and children gather amid rubble in the northern Syrian city of Raqa, the former Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, on Aug. 11, 2021. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces overran Raqa in 2017, after years of what residents described as Islamic State's brutal rule, which included public beheading and crucifixions. Photo by Delil Souleiman/ AFP via Getty Images.
She turned 16, wed a man five years older, James Fluke, and in 1997 gave birth to their first child. Another followed 11 months later.
Fluke-Ekren got her general education development degree and enrolled at the University of Kansas in 1998.
A few years later, her husband came home to an empty house. He said she’d vanished with their two children, leaving him $12,000 in debt, a sum she disputes.
The divorce was finalized in early 2002, shortly after the US went to war with the terrorist group al Qaeda.
By then she’d converted to Islam. She married her 19-year-old university lab partner, Volkan Ekren, on April 23, 2002.
A US Marine fires an M777-A2 howitzer in the early morning in Syria, June 3, 2017, targeting elements of the Islamic State group. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a biology degree in 2006, Fluke-Ekren taught math and science to Wichita schoolchildren, and then joined the graduate teaching program at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.
In 2008, she suddenly gathered up the family and flew to Egypt. She never paid off the $86,817 in US Department of Education student loans she used to fund her schooling.
She was embarking on a brutal journey that would cross into war-torn Libya, then Syria. By 2019, she’d wed four times, gave birth to 11 children, and adopted a war orphan.
But she also lost two children and three husbands to the war, starting with Volkan Ekren, who had risen through the ranks of the Islamic State group to become an emir and sniper.
Fighters affiliated with the Hayat Tahrir al-Shamjihadist group in Syria inspect the site of a reported drone attack which targeted a motorcycle on the eastern edge of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, early on June 28, 2022. The US military said it carried out a "kinetic strike" targeting a leader of the Hurras al-Din jihadist group, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, in the Syrian province of Idlib. Photo by Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images.
James Fluke later told federal investigators his ex-wife was “always attracted to power and authority,” “wanted to have control over everything,” and “had a way of constantly making you feel you were not good enough and never could be.”
“Something is deeply broken inside that woman,” he said.
Letters penned by her children to the judge punctuate those haunting words. Pieced together, they describe years of physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse by Fluke-Ekren and the terrorists she joined overseas.
Coffee or Die doesn’t identify alleged victims of child abuse.
A man injured during fighting between rebel forces and pro-government troops is given medical attention in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Aug. 6, 2013. The jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, and other opposition groups were fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. Photo by Zakariya Al-Kafi/AFP via Getty Images.
She put salt and caustic chemicals in a son’s cuts, he wrote in one letter.
She also punched his face, hurt his testicles, threw him on the floor, kicked him until he coughed up blood, and choked him until he blacked out, and it was all part of a “systemized method to turn people evil.”
“My mother is a monster who enjoys torturing children for sexual pleasure,” he continued. “My mother is a monster very skilled in manipulation and controlling her emotions to her advantage. My mother is a monster without love for her children, without an excuse for her actions.”
By 2011, she’d moved the family to Libya, where she founded a school with ties to the terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia. According to one of her daughters, Fluke-Ekren taught 6-year-old students that nonbelievers would rape them.
“She then would show us videos of Iraqi women getting raped by American soldiers. She would make us do exercises in the name of being fit enough to kill,” the daughter told investigators.
Fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front -- renamed Fateh al-Sham Front after breaking from Al-Qaeda -- pose for a photo after they recaptured an armament school south of Aleppo on Aug. 6, 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Syrian coalition of jihadists and Islamist seized key positions south of Aleppo as they press a major offensive to break the government siege of the city, the monitor said. Photo by Omar Haj Kdour/AFP via Getty Images.
Within two years, Fluke-Ekren had moved to Syria, where an even bloodier civil war had erupted. Near Aleppo, she joined Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, an armed Islamist militia trying to erect a Sunni theocracy inside the Middle East.
One of Fluke-Ekren’s daughters told authorities she again established a terrorist training center for women and children.
“In Libya I was taught that I was going to be killed if I didn’t obey my mother, and now I was being taught to kill for my mother,” the daughter said.
“While she was training me, I got ill with typhoid fever. I was dying,” she continued. “Everything hurt. As the disease started eating away at me, I couldn’t get up or move. I couldn’t eat or drink. My ribs showed through my skin like a ladder. My stomach was sunken in like a bowl. My mother would still try to train me, but it got so bad that I couldn’t obey her anymore. As I got closer and closer to death, my mind started to deteriorate. I couldn’t hold onto a thought. I would lie down, eyes open and mind empty. It felt as though my sole purpose in life was to feel like shit. I was 10, and I yearned for death. My nose would bleed all the time. I would have random seizures as my body started to collapse. My mother did nothing.”
An armed jihadi stands next to the wreckage of a Syrian government forces aircraft which was shot down by militants of the Islamic State group over the Syrian town of Raqa on Sept.16, 2014. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images.
But Jabhat al-Nusra kept rebuffing Fluke-Ekren’s efforts to expand her operation. That changed in 2016, when the Islamic State group took over, and the terrorist organization’s mayor of Raqqa greenlighted the launch of Khatiba Nusaybah.
It began operations on behalf of ISIS in early 2017, with Fluke-Ekren at the helm. The unit was intended to bloom into a battalion, but it never drew more than 100 women. Fluke-Ekren trained them how to use AK-47 rifles, grenades, and explosive suicide belts.
During the Syrian civil war, Jabhat al-Nusra focused on the near enemy, the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus. But ISIS percolated plans for "far enemies," like the United States. Fluke-Ekren became a willing plotter on its behalf, according to the woman’s daughter and an unnamed ISIS volunteer from Central America.
Fluke-Ekren began concocting a plot to bomb an unnamed campus in a Midwestern state, but the attack never occurred.
She later insisted that Khatiba Nusaybah was never intended for offensive operations, only as a last-chance defense for women threatened with rape by other Syrian militias and government forces.
A woman carries her baby during treatment at a recently-opened medical center for cholera cases in the Syrian town of Darkush, on the outskirts of the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, on Oct. 22, 2022. The disease is making its first major comeback since 2009 in Syria, where nearly two-thirds of water treatment plants, half of pumping stations and one-third of water towers have been damaged by more than a decade of war, according to the United Nations. Photo by Aaref Watad/AFP via Getty Images.
Fluke-Ekren’s second husband died at the front. She remarried an Islamic State group fighter, Mohammed Zafer, in 2016, but he was killed two months into the marriage.
She wed her fourth husband — an ISIS militiaman named in court records only as “Mohammed Doe” — but he died from wounds in 2018.
She then married a Syrian who wasn’t in ISIS, Mahmood Mustafa, in 2019, after she’d walked away from violent jihad.
But the marriage quickly collapsed.
A rebel fighter aims his heavy machine gun mounted on the back of a pickup truck outside the Aleppo headquarters of Syria's Islamic State group on Jan. 8, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Wesam/AFP via Getty Images.
One daughter later told investigators Fluke-Ekren also forced her to marry an ISIS fighter in order to curry favor within the terrorist organization.
The girl was only 13. She said the 17-year-old terrorist raped her. Fluke-Ekren later insisted the boy was 16 and her daughter wed by choice, a statement derided by both prosecutors and the girl.
“My childhood is filled with memories of being cold, hungry, and dirty,” the daughter wrote in a letter to the judge. “I would get so hungry that I would chew on wood and eat grass to sooth the pain. I would find maggots in the crevices of my body, such as my belly button, from the filth I was left in. I would constantly have glass in my foot from my mother intentionally breaking it so that I would step on it. Accidentally drinking from a glass of bleach was a regular thing due to my mother intentionally leaving bleach in drinking glasses for me to find. My mother would find weaknesses in each of her kids and exploit them. Sometimes, Allison would even groom me into having weaknesses that she could use. My mother taught me to fear rape, and then she would molest me. Any time that I would disobey, Allison would break into hysteria, tears gushing from her eyes. My mother knew that I had a weakness for crying, and she used that against me.”
A still from a propaganda video released by the Islamic State group media office in Iraq's Nineveh province on July 20, 2016, shows Rachid Kassim, a French member of the terrorist organization, speaking in French to the camera from an undisclosed location before beheading two men. AFP image via Getty Images.
Fluke-Ekren asked the judge for leniency.
Instead of abusing her children, she insisted she turned herself in to Kurdish forces to give her kids a better life outside of war-torn Syria. And she said she pleaded guilty to spare her children from being forced to testify in court.
In their filings, attorneys Sean A. Sherlock and Joseph King complained the child abuse allegations lodged against their client remained uncorroborated and sometimes diverged from previous interviews between her children and investigators.
The attorneys pointed to a school she founded in 2020 in Syria, funding it with wages she made as a researcher on migration and humanitarian issues for a nonprofit. They also revealed Fluke-Ekren suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
The lawyers also warned the judge that giving Fluke-Ekren a stiff sentence could sway other ISIS brides overseas to stick with terrorists, instead of surrendering to authorities.
Judge Brinkema disagreed and gave her the max penalty.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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