The family of a Kansas mother charged with joining the Islamic State group and leading an all-female battalion armed with AK-47s says they want nothing to do with her, a federal prosecutor said on Monday.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, made an initial appearance on Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The hearing lasted only minutes; she was ordered to remain in jail pending a detention hearing set for Thursday afternoon, and an attorney was appointed to represent her.
At the end of the hearing, though, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh told the judge that he had been in contact with Fluke-Ekren’s parents and her adult children, and all had said they wanted no contact with her.
The magistrate judge, Ivan Davis, said he had little ability to keep her from reaching out to her family from jail, but told Fluke-Ekren he would take it into account at Thursday’s hearing if she contacted her family against their wishes.
Fluke-Ekren, speaking in a soft-spoken voice and wearing an inmate jumpsuit and headscarf, said she understood the restriction. She also told the judge, in response to his question, that she preferred to be addressed as Ekren.
The Justice Department used her full name, Allison Fluke-Ekren, when it announced charges against her of providing and conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.
Meanwhile, Fluke-Ekren’s former high school teacher-turned-friend, Larry Miller, shared memories of her as a teenager and later as a young woman, revealing that she was a stellar student at Topeka Collegiate in the early 1990s, had a keen interest in science, photography and nature, and wanted to become a teacher herself.
‘I would just like for people to know that that’s not the person I knew when I knew her,’ Miller told The Capital-Journal on Monday.
This undated photo provided by the Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office in January 2022 shows Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, who is accused of joining ISIS and leading an all-female battalion of AK-47 wielding militants
Fluke-Ekren, who once lived in Kansas, moved with her husband and four children to Egypt in 2008 and traveled frequently between Egypt and the US over the next three years
Fluke-Ekren is pictured with her family riding camels and horses at the foot of the pyramids in Egypt. She later relocated to Syria, allegedly to join Islamic extremists
A prosecutor told a federal judge on Monday Fluke-Ekren’s adult children and her parents said they wanted no contact with her
Prosecutors say Ekren wanted to recruit operatives to attack a college campus in the U.S. and discussed the idea of attacking a shopping mall by remotely detonating a car full of explosives in the parking garage.
She told one witness that ‘she considered any attack that did not kill a large number of individuals to be a waste of resources,’ according to an FBI affidavit.
The same witness said that when Fluke-Ekren would hear about terrorist attacks taking place in countries outside the U.S., she would comment that she wished the attack occurred on American soil instead.
The affidavit also alleges Ekren, who went by the names ‘Umm Mohammed al-Amriki,’ ‘Umm Mohammed,’ and ‘Umm Jabril,’ became leader of an Islamic State unit called ‘Khatiba Nusaybah’ in the Syrian city of Raqqa in late 2016.
The all-female unit comprised of the wives of male ISIS fighters was trained in the use of AK-47 rifles, grenades and suicide belts.
The members of Khatiba Nusaybah were allegedly instructed on physical training, medical training, Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device driving courses, religious classes and how to pack and prepare a ‘go bag’ with military supplies. According to eyewitness accounts, some of these classes were allegedly taught by Fluke-Ekren.
Prosecutors say Fluke-Ekren (pictured with her family) wanted to recruit operatives to attack a college campus in the U.S. and discussed a terrorist attack on a shopping mall
FBI alleges Fluke-Ekren, aka ‘Umm Mohammed al-Amriki,’ ‘Umm Mohammed,’ and ‘Umm Jabril,’ became a leader of an all-female ISIS unit called ‘Khatiba Nusaybah’ in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2016
She also allegedly provided ISIS and ISIS members with services, which included providing lodging, translating speeches made by ISIS leaders, training children on the use of AK-47 assault rifles and suicide belts and teaching extremist ISIS doctrine, prosecutors said.
One witness allegedly observed that the leaders of ISIS and the other members of the military battalion were proud to have an American instructor.
A detention memo stated that Fluke-Ekren trained children how to use assault rifles, and that at least one witness saw one of Fluke-Ekren’s children, approximately 5 or 6 years old, holding a machine gun in the family’s home in Syria.
In all, the affidavit cites observations from six different witnesses, including some who have been charged with terrorism offenses and some who were held at prison camps for former Islamic state members.
‘Fluke-Ekren has been a fervent believer in the radical terrorist ideology of ISIS for many years, having traveled to Syria to commit or support violent jihad. Fluke-Ekren translated her extremist beliefs into action by serving as the appointed leader and organizer of an ISIS military battalion, directly training women and children in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts to support the Islamic State´s murderous aims,’ Parekh wrote.
According to court papers, Ekren moved to Egypt in 2008 and traveled frequently between Egypt and the US over the next three years. She has not been in the US since 2011. Prosecutors believe she moved to Syria around 2012.
In early 2016, her husband was killed in the Syrian city of Tell Abyad while trying to carry out a terrorist attack, prosecutors said. Later that year, prosecutors say she married a Bangladeshi ISIS member who specialized in drones, but he died in late 2016 or early 2017.
Four months after that man’s death, she again remarried a prominent Islamic state leader who was responsible for the Islamic State group’s defense of Raqqa.
Fluke-Ekren, a teacher by trade, allegedly helped train female ISIS members and their children in the use of AK-47 rifles, grenades and suicide belts
Fluke-Ekren (pictured with school children) was quoted as telling a witness that she wanted to die as a martyr in Syria
She told one witness in 2018 that she instructed a person in Syria to tell Fluke-Ekren’s family she was dead so the U.S. government would not try to find her, according to Parekh’s memo.
‘Fluke-Ekren informed this same witness and others that it was important to kill the kuffar (disbelievers) and die as martyrs on behalf of ISIS in Syria,’ the memo alleges. ‘The witness also heard Fluke-Ekren state that she never wanted to return to the United States and that she wanted to die in Syria as a martyr.’
Photos from a family blog called 4KansasKids show her and her children in the years they traveled between Kansas and Egypt, posing at the base of the pyramids in Egypt and playing in the snow in the U.S.
A 2004 article about homeschooling in the Lawrence Journal-World featured Fluke-Ekren and her children. She told the paper she pulled her kids from public school because she was dissatisfied with how her children were performing in public and private schools. Homeschooling allowed her to teach Arabic to her kids.
Larry Miller told The Capital Journal that he first met Fluke-Ekren, then known as Allison Brooks, in the early 1990s, when he taught her science at Topeka Collegiate School.
‘Never would any of us who knew her back then ever thought she would end up as she has today,’ Miller said.
Miller, who is now retired, told the paper that as a student, Fluke-Ekren ‘was good at everything.’ He described her then as a ‘pleasant young lady’ who shared many of his own interests, including nature and photography.
The two kept in touch over the years, and Fluke-Ekren even hired Miller to be her wedding photographer.
In 2008, Miller said Fluke-Ekren sent him an email, writing to him that she was happily married with four children, and that she was pursuing a Master’s degree in teaching in Indiana.
Some time after that, Fluke-Ekren reached out to Miller again, asking him if he knew of any teaching positions in Kansas. Miller said he told her of one job opportunity, to which she applied and was hired, but instead she moved with her then-husband and children to Egypt.
Fluke-Ekren’s final Facebook post, dated May 5, 2008, reads: ‘Moving to Egypt. I’m a little behind the curve, but trying to learn how to use Facebook. =-) Well, after years of planning and preparing, we are moving out of the States. We’ll be in Cairo, Egypt, insha’Allah. I am teaching kindergarten, and my husband will be going to Al Azhar [University]. The kids are excited, but nervous, as am I. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated!’