On January 31st, 2022, former Kansas school teacher and resident, Allison Elizabeth Fluke-Ekren, made her first court appearance in Alexandria, Virginia after being charged with plotting multiple bomb attacks in the United States and training an all-female battalion for the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as her involvement in another terror group in Libya.
Fluke-Ekren left the U.S. for Egypt in 2008 where stayed for three years until moving to Libya. In 2012, a witness told the court she was smuggled into Syria because she allegedly wanted to engage in violent Jihad on behalf of ISIS. Between 2014 and 2017, Fluke-Ekren allegedly engaged in terrorism related activities, including planning attacks in her home country.
To avenge an airstrike on a market area near al-Bab, Syria, Fluke-Ekren allegedly planned to drop off a backpack filled with explosives on a U.S. college campus with approved funding from former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Additionally, Fluke-Ekren allegedly explained to another witness that she could pack a vehicle with explosives, park it at the base of shopping mall, and detonate the bomb with a cell phone. Her plans were thwarted after her husband, another ISIS militant, objected.
Fluke-Ekren and her husband brought $15,000 to Syria to buy AK-47s, grenades, and other military-style rifle items. In their statements to authorities, witnesses were surprised by how many assault rifles were in her home and how her children, as young as five or six, were seen holding a machine gun.
Root Causes and Prosecution Issues
The desire to defect from developed western developed nations to terrorist cells usually abounds from a feeling of resentment and displacement within immigrant communities. Policies in the UK, France, Ireland, and Australia dictate that those accused of involvement with ISIS are to be stripped of their citizenship. This has lent the feeling that those with immigrant backgrounds are second class citizens, constantly under the suspicion of terrorist sympathies. These defendants are then deported to their “countries of origin,” usually nations with which they have little or no relationship with, and are then tried in those new nations. Typically, these new nations are not fully apprised of all the evidence used to deport them from the old nation, which makes successful prosecution less likely.
Cases involving suspected terrorists captured overseas can pose difficulties for prosecutors because witnesses and evidence usually reside in war zones. In early 2018, the FBI recovered several pages of handwritten English documents resembling an ISIS Sharia law exam. The exam showed that its creator was “Umm Mohammed al-Amriki” now known to be one of the aliases of Fluke-Ekren. After comparing the exam with handwriting samples provided by Fluke-Ekren’s family, authorities were able to confirm her authorship and role as a mentor.
Overall, the topic of repatriation and the approach of deradicalization is a fraught topic. Many commentators have noted that the idea of repatriation for foreign fighters is political suicide, while human rights experts maintain that that rehabilitation and prosecution in developed legal regimes is the most effective path toward justice. It appears that after over 20 years since its conception, the fundamental questions of how to win the War on Terror have not been sufficiently answered. Ideas about which enactments of violence for political means are legitimate and illegitimate have not, and probably will never, be satisfactory to everyone on the globe.
The current issue of the IELR will contain a more comprehensive discussion about Fluke-Ekren and general disagreements about how to prosecute foreign terror fighters.
 Jansen, Bart and Meyer, Josh, DOJ: Former Kansas teacher charged with plotting US attacks appears in court, ordered detained, USA Today, January 31, 2022.
 Mironova, Vera, The Challenges of Foreign Fighters Repatriating and Prosecuting ISIS Detainees, Mei Policy Center, January 2021 https://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/2021-01/The%20Challenge%20of%20Foreign%20Fighters.pdf.
 U.S. v. Allison Elizabeth Fluke-Ekren, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 5/15/2019.