HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana woman who says she was tricked into traveling to Syria where she and her four children were held in a Kurdish detention camp after her husband died while fighting for the Islamic State movement is accused of providing material support to the group.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Samantha Elhassani, 32, was charged Wednesday with conspiring to provide material support to IS and aiding and abetting individuals in providing material support to the group, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.
Elhassani, formerly of Elkhart, Indiana, is accused of providing tactical gear and funds to two Islamic State fighters between the fall of 2014 and the summer of 2015, despite knowing that the group is an active terrorist organization. The indictment does not identify the two IS fighters.
“The seriousness of the charges reflect the gravity of Elhassani’s alleged conduct,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said in a news release.
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Her Chicago-based attorney, Thomas Durkin, called the charges “wrong-headed and cruel.” He said Elhassani is “a victim of her jihadist husband (who) should be receiving treatment rather than incarceration” and that she should not be separated from her children.
Elhassani remains in federal custody, said Ryan Holmes, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Hammond.
Elhassani told the BBC and PBS in April that during a 2015 vacation in Turkey, her Moroccan husband tricked her into traveling with their children to Syria, where he became an IS militant and died fighting. She and the children ended up in a Kurdish detention camp and were transferred to U.S. custody in July by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
The couple’s four minor children were placed in the custody of Indiana’s child welfare services.