Prosecutors in the United States unveiled charges Wednesday evening against a man and his son who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS).
Trinidad-born Emraan Ali, 53, brought his wife, stepchild and five other children to Syria in 2015 to live under IS, prosecutors allege. Among them was his then-14-year-old son Jihad.
Both Emraan and Jihad received IS military training for the so-called caliphate, according to the criminal complaints against them. They surrendered to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at IS’ final battle, near Baghouz, Syria, in March 2019, according to prosecutors.
They are the latest American citizens to be charged for providing material support to IS. Earlier in September, a Kosovo-born former resident of Chicago appeared in court in Washington, DC, on allegations that he joined IS. Another man who had been captured in Baghouz, Abdulhamid al-Madioum, from Minneapolis, was also charged this month.
On Sept. 2, 23-year-old Omar Kuzu of Texas pled guilty after joining IS in Syria.
Prosecutors say both Ali and his son admitted to having been fighters for the English-speaking Anwar al-Awlaki battalion. Jihad claimed he fired his weapon multiple times, but he said he did not believe he ever shot directly at anyone and downplayed WhatsApp messages he had sent to his mother from Syria saying he had fought in battles against the SDF.
His father, Emraan, told investigators he used a medical excuse to abandon their unit after several fighters were killed, according to the indictment.
But among other IS documents appearing to reference members of the Ali family, a hard drive recovered by the US military in Syria contained a file mentioning that out of 44 men in a reconnaissance unit, one Abu Jihad al-Trinidadi al-Amriki (the father of Jihad, the Trinidadian-American) was the only one to be issued an American M4 assault rifle, a prized symbol among IS jihadists.
He was also referred to as Abu Jihad “TNT,” for Trinidad and Tobago, prosecutors allege.
Emraan told investigators that his wife’s sister and her husband first traveled to live under IS and informed him they had a good life under the jihadist state.
He claimed he worked as a salesman and solicited donations via money transfer from Trinidad and Tobago after abandoning his military service. Prosecutors also say he permitted the marriage of his then-14-year-old daughter to a 21-year old fighter from the United Kingdom named Uthman.
His son, Jihad, told investigators that his father made him attend IS military training against his wishes, but that he had thought it would be interesting to travel to Syria and bragged about his participation in fighting in messages to his mother. Jihad also boasted on Facebook about fighting and the possibility of being killed.
The two men appeared yesterday before a federal judge in the US Southern District of Florida.