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ISIS soldier from Michigan guilty in federal court terror trial

The FBI received a tip in 2016 that included this grainy photo of Dearborn native Ibraheem Musaibli posing next to an assault rifle. (U.S. District Court/TNS)

An Islamic State soldier from Dearborn captured on a Syrian battlefield five years ago faces at least 10 years in federal prison after a jury Monday convicted him of providing material support to a terrorist group.

Jurors spent about four hours deliberating before convicting Ibraheem Musaibli, 32, of all three charges against him. That includes two terrorism-related charges, which include conspiring to provide material support, and a third charge of receiving military-type training from ISIS. The two terrorism-related charges could send Musaibli to prison for 50 years while the training charge carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years.

The verdict is the latest development in an international ordeal involving a rare ISIS fighter brought back to America in 2018 to face charges. Musaibli’s trial started Jan. 19.

There was no immediate comment from Musaibli’s defense team.

Musaibli’s case has shed light on the Michigan man’s journey from his parents’ perfume shop in Detroit to a Middle East war zone and presented the U.S. court system with a unique chance to prosecute an American accused of leaving the U.S. and fighting for the Islamic State group.

Prosecutors had described Musaibli as a homegrown jihadist who served in a brigade of foreign fighters. Defense lawyers had argued Musaibli was not a soldier, was driven overseas by a curiosity about life in a territory governed by a strict view of Muslim law and was branded a spy and repeatedly thrown in an ISIS jail.

The trial involved unique allegations involving an American accused of becoming radicalized in the U.S. and successfully traveling to ISIS-controlled territory, said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

“The vast majority of people arrested for ISIS-related crimes never got outside of the U.S. and joined ISIS,” Hughes told The Detroit News.

Musaibli’s path overseas started in 2015 when he traveled to Yemen before sneaking into Syria, joining ISIS and spending more than 2 1/2 years in the Islamic State fighting for the group, swearing allegiance, recruiting others and spreading propaganda, prosecutors said.

The government’s evidence includes video of Musaibli talking about his participation in jihad and a trove of text and social media messages from Musaibli to relatives on Facebook and WhatsApp.

The trial had faced delays due to battles over evidence, COVID-19 and international complications associated with finding witnesses in a war-torn country.

The trial started almost five years after Musaibli was captured in Syria and flown back to the U.S. aboard a C-17 military airplane customized so FBI agents could interrogate him and an Indiana woman convicted of financing terrorism.


(c) 2023 The Detroit News

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