Two American citizens captured by U.S.-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria have been transferred back to the United States, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
“Two U.S. citizens, charged in separate cases with federal violations, have been transferred from the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to U.S. custody and transported to the U.S. where they will soon appear in federal courts,” Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement.
One of the people, Ibraheem Izzy Musaibli, 28, of Dearborn, Mich., was charged Tuesday with providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from April 2015 to June 2018, according to a separate department press release.
Musaibli was reportedly captured trying to escape the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the SDF and U.S. coalition forces have been working to rout remaining pockets of ISIS. He was identified as an ISIS fighter by another detainee, according to The New York Times.
The department’s Tuesday statement did not identify the second person transferred back. But news reports have identified her as Samantha El Hassani.
El Hassani, of Indiana, reportedly traveled to Syria with her husband and children. When the husband was killed fighting for ISIS, she reportedly went to a refugee camp guarded by the SDF and identified herself to local authorities.
The transfer of the two back to the United States stands in contrast to the case of a U.S. citizen who has been held by the U.S. military for months in Iraq after being captured by the SDF in September 2017.
In that case, U.S. officials have said they do not have enough admissible evidence to charge the man, known only as John Doe, in federal court. The government and the ACLU have been locked in a legal battle over his fate.
U.S. officials have said the SDF is holding hundreds of foreign nationals accused of fighting for ISIS. The U.S. preference has been for detainees’ home countries to take them back for prosecution, but officials have had trouble convincing countries to do so.
During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to “load” the Guantanamo Bay detention facility “up with bad dudes,” but no one new has been sent there since he took office. Legal experts have said doing so would invite an immediate legal challenge since the war authorization used to justify indefinite military detention does not explicitly mention ISIS.
Trump also indicted on the campaign trail he was open to detaining U.S. citizens at Guantanamo and trying them at the military commissions there. But it is currently illegal to try U.S. citizens at military commissions.