ISIS bride: Radicalized Alabama woman trying to return to US with son

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
ISIS bride Hoda Muthana hopes to return to US
An Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State group after becoming radicalized online realized she was wrong and now wants to return to the United States, a lawyer for h

An Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State group after becoming radicalized online realized she was wrong and now wants to return to the United States, a lawyer for her family said Tuesday.

Hoda Muthana, 24, regrets ever aligning herself with the terrorist organization and is putting herself at risk by speaking out against it from a refugee camp where she has lived since fleeing the group a few weeks ago, said attorney Hassan Shibly.

Muthana, who dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape, is ready to pay the penalty for her actions, but wants freedom and safety for her son, he said.

Muthana sat down with ABC News' James Longman for an exclusive interview in Syria. She said she was radicalized and brainwashed by a secret Twitter group of 2,000 "ISIS youth."

"We were just learning off of each other, feeding off of each other," Muthana said.

She fled her home in suburban Birmingham in late 2014 and resurfaced in Syria. She said she was locked in a safe house and her only choice was marriage. First, she married an Australian Jihadi, who was killed in combat three months later. Her next husband, the father of her 18-month-old son, was also killed in combat.

When asked if she knew about ISIS atrocities, she told ABC News, "We didn't see much. But what we did see, when we did see it - we would see dead bodies in public."

Muthana said she used social media to advocate violence against the United States. In one tweet, she said in part, "Americans wake up! ...go on drive by's + spill all of their blood..."

Longman: "Do you feel shame when you hear that back?"

Muthana: "Yes, very much."

Ashfaq Taufique, who knows Muthana's family and is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, told ABC News she was a kind and quiet teen before she left for Syria.

"She was gentle. She was smiling. No one could've imagined that she would join a group of that violent nature," Taufique said.

Longman: "Do you deserve punishment for what you did?"

Muthana: "Maybe therapy lessons? Maybe, a process that will ensure that we never do this again. Jail time, I don't know if that has an effect on people."

Longman: "Do you feel remorse and sorry and regret for being part of an organization like ISIS?"

Muthana: "Definitely. It's not Islamic at all. I believe that 100 percent."

In a handwritten letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made "a big mistake" by rejecting her family and friends in the United States to join the Islamic State.

"During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me," she wrote.

In the letter, Muthana wrote that she didn't understand the importance of freedoms provided by the United States at the time.

"To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly," said the letter.

Shibly said Muthana could now have valuable intelligence for U.S. forces, but he said the FBI didn't seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son.

"She's trying to redeem herself. Right now, we are waiting for the US government to take action," Shibly said.

The State Department told ABC News it is "looking into these cases to better understand the details," but declined to comment on any individual, including Muthana, because of "privacy and security." The department is also considering various alternative disposition options for foreign terrorist fighters who cannot be repatriated.

Shibly said right now, Muthana's father would welcome the woman back, but she is not on speaking terms with her mother.

Taufique said the woman could be a valuable resource for teaching young people about the dangers of online radicalization were she allowed to return to the United States.

"Her coming back could be a very positive thing for our community and our country," Taufique said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.