American who 'regretted' joining IS gets 20 year sentence

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Washington (AFP) - A 27-year-old American who joined the Islamic State group in Syria and later claimed he escaped and fled into the hands of Kurdish troops after a "bad decision" was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday.

Mohamad Jamal Khweis left his job driving a bus for disabled people in northern Virginia in December 2015 to travel to IS's stronghold of Raqa.

He spent about two and a half months as a member of IS, taking part in religious training and staying in various safe houses, allegedly preparing to be a suicide bomber.

He was detained by Kurdish peshmerga fighters in March 2016 in Tal Afar, Iraq, and later claimed he escaped the jihadists, telling a Kurdish television station in Arbil that he did not see them as "good Muslims."

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation rejected his claims, saying he clearly had sought to join the group, selling his car and leaving home without telling anyone.

"The evidence at trial demonstrated that Mohamad Khweis is an unpredictable and dangerous person who was radicalized towards violent jihad," said Dana Boente, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

"Khweis purposefully traveled overseas with the intent to join (IS) in support of the terrorist group's efforts to conduct operations and execute attacks to further their radical ideology," added Andrew Vale, the Washington field office director for the FBI.

"Khweis recognized that (IS) uses violence in its expansion of its caliphate and he committed to serving as a suicide bomber."

A federal jury convicted Khweis on June 8 on all three charges against him, including providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to IS, and a related firearms count.

He faced a maximum life sentence.