American Mom Who Lived Under ISIS Charged with Lying to FBI

Sam El Hassani in March 2018, interviewed in Kurdish detention.

Sam El Hassani in March 2018, interviewed in Kurdish detention.

July 24, 2018

Samantha El Hassani, an American woman who lived with her husband and children in ISIS’ Syrian capital for more than two years, has been formally charged by federal prosecutors with making false statements to the FBI, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

El Hassani had been living in a Kurdish detention camp with her four children, who are also U.S. citizens, after fleeing Raqqa in late 2017.

In a statement Tuesday, the Justice Department said El Hassani had been transferred to U.S. law enforcement custody, and brought back home to Indiana to await an upcoming court hearing. Her children are currently in the care of Indiana Department of Child Services, which the Justice Department said “will now make any necessary determinations regarding their custody, safety and well-being.” The Justice Department released no further details.

For the past 18 months, FRONTLINE and the BBC have been investigating the El Hassani family’s journey from a comfortable life in Indiana to the bombed-out capital of Raqqa and then into Kurdish detention. As one of the few American families that have lived under ISIS rule, the El Hassanis are a further test of how the U.S. handles those who have traveled, willingly or not, to the Islamic State.

In March, in her first interview, Samantha El Hassani told FRONTLINE and the BBC that her husband Moussa, a Moroccan national, tricked her into traveling to Raqqa. She said he took her and her two children at the time on a vacation in Turkey in 2015, and then forced them over the border into Syria.

El Hassani told FRONTLINE and the BBC that she eventually fled Raqqa with her children after her husband was killed fighting for ISIS. They were ultimately picked up by Kurdish authorities and detained in a camp with others who fled the Islamic State.

At the time, she said she was worried about returning to the United States and losing custody of her children. “Will the government try to take my kids away from me, when I’ve done nothing but try to protect them? When here they give them school, they give them food, they give them everything. I’ll go there, I’m broke, I have nothing.”

The Justice Department said that El Hassani was transferred with another American defendant, Ibraheem Izzy Musaibli, who will face charges of providing material support to ISIS in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan.


Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Senior Editor & Director of Local Projects, FRONTLINE


Josh Baker

Josh Baker, Producer



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