A 28-year-old man from Dearborn was arrested in Syria earlier this month on suspicion of being a fighter for the Islamic State.
Ibraheem Musaibli was seized as he tried to escape the Middle Euphrates River Valley, an area where the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces has been trying to squash remaining pockets of Islamic State control, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The newspaper reported that authorities are working to bring Musaibli and an Indiana woman whose husband was an Islamic State fighter back to the U.S. to be prosecuted. He is being held in an undisclosed facility.
A spokesman for the FBI in Detroit declined to comment.
Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert and deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told the Free Press that Musaibli’s arrest is significant.
“We have had a number of Americans who have been captured in Syria, Iraq, or Turkey fleeing the Islamic State,” he said in an e-mail. “Most end up charged with federal crimes.
“Mr. Musaibli is interesting because this is the first time with the use of federal courts for such a case under the Trump administration. There is an ongoing debate within the administration about what to do with returning foreign fighters with some sections advocating for federal courts while others encouraging the use of military courts.”
Hughes said if Musaibli is indicted, the next steps would be to unseal the indictment and bring him to Michigan in front of a federal judge.
The New York Times reported that officials believe Musaibli traveled to Syria in 2015. It also said he dropped out of high school as a teen and helped his dad run a perfume store before starting his own family and moving to Yemen.
The Times reached out through Facebook to Musaibli’s brother, who expressed disbelief at the idea that Musaibli would have joined ISIS.
“My brother is a saint,” Abe Musaibli told the Times. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Staff writer Tresa Baldas contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Ann Zaniewski at 313-222-6594 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski.
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