Place of Birth: Indiana, United States;
Samantha Elhassani is a Indiana woman who says she was tricked by her husband into traveling to Syria to live in ISIS-controlled Raqqa while he fought for the terror group has been returned to the United States with her four children to face a federal charge of making a false statement to the FBI.
Samantha Sally Elhassani had and her children been in the custody of Syrian-Kurdish forces since the fall of Raqqa in 2017. Her husband was killed while fighting for ISIS as a sniper.
Elhassani told CNN in April 2018 that she her husband, Moussa Elhassani, a Moroccan national she met and married in Indiana, had been planning to move to Morocco following a brief vacation in Hong Kong in 2014. But days later, Elhassai and her family were at the Turkish border with Syria on the edge of the so-called ISIS Caliphate.
Elhassani said she was holding her son, while her daughter was in her husband’s arms, so she was faced with the choice of abandoning her daughter to save herself and her son, so she decided to enter the ISIS territory with her husband.
Sam Elhassani told CNN in her April 2018 interview that she thought her and her family were moving to Morocco to start a new, cheaper life. Her husband told her they needed to go through Hong Kong to transfer money. She has vehemently denied knowing his plans to join ISIS and said she was a “naive, manipulated housewife”.
Elhassani said that her husband, Moussa Elhassani, told her they could move to his native Morocco for at least a year, where she could get cheap surgery on her knee and they could have a fresh start. She said that the family flew to Hong Kong to transfer money and then on to Turkey for what she thought was a romantic holiday. While there, her husband lavished her with gifts.
Elhassani didn’t realize the travel route was a textbook example of evading law enforcement while trying to join ISIS. They eventually reached the Turkish border town of Sanliurfa, where things changed. According to Elhassani, her husband told her it was too dangerous to leave their hotel room.
“Once we got to Sanliurfa everything changed,” she says. “I was like a prisoner in the room. This was years in the making. He separated me from my family. I could not see that he was the one that was wrong. It was always ‘no, my husband is right.’” When they crossed the border, with Elhassani making the decision to take her son and join her husband and son instead of abandoning them, she says she thought she would be able to return to Turkey soon.
Elhassani said that once in the Caliphate in Raqqa under ISIS, her husband changed. “Before he would spoil me. ‘I love you.’ We were very much in love. The romance never left. As soon as we came here it changed. I was a dog. I didn’t have any choice. He was extremely violent. And there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing.”
While in Raqqa, she was jailed while pregnant for trying to escape and for allegedly spying for the U.S. While being held in jail, she said she was beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted. After being released, she returned to a small house on the outskirts of Raqqa where she lived. While in Syria, she had two children fathered by her husband.
Elhassani bought a Yazidi slave, a teen girl who had been captured by ISIS, to help her, spending $10,000, half of the money she had smuggled with her from the U.S. from her savings. But she said her husband then began raping the girl and also spent $7,500 to buy his own salve, a younger girl.
Soad, one of the girls who her husband kept as a slave who has now been reunited with her family, told that she has nothing but gratitude for Samantha Elhassani, and sent her a video message, saying, “I really want to see you, even if it is one last time. I miss you so much and I miss your children. Anything I can do to help you get out, I will do. I love you so much.”
Her husband Moussa was a sniper who fought on the frontlines for ISIS. He was killed by a drone strike in mid-2017, according to CNN. Samantha Elhassani said his death was a relief. “I was able to breathe. I was like, okay now we can start phase two. At least now we can all breathe,” she said.
She and her children were not able to flee after his death because ISIS snipers were killing anyone who tried to do so. They remained in Raqqa during the final days of ISIS control, and then was detained when the final fighters surrendered to Syrian-Kurdish forces. She was then taken to a jail with her children, where they remained until they were flown back to the U.S.
Elhassani’s son, who was from her first marriage to an American man, was a “prized cast member” for ISIS propaganda videos.
She told that she was beaten for trying to stop ISIS from using her son in a video, but that did not stop it. The video shows her young son walking through a damaged mosque and the streets of Raqqa vowing revenge on President Donald Trump and pledging attacks on the U.S.
Samantha Elhassani has not been charged with any terrorism-related offenses. According to federal court records, she was indicted by a grand jury in a sealed case on March 21, 2018, on one count of making false statements, a felony. The indictment, which was unsealed on July 25, reveals few details about the case against Elhassani. According to the indictment, prosecutors are accusing Elhassani of lying to the FBI when speaking to agents on March 19, 2015.
If convicted of the felony charge, Elhassani could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison. Elhassani made her first appearance in the Northern District of Indiana court on July 25, records show. She was appeared without a lawyer and asked to be able to contact her family to determine if an attorney has been retained to her prior to a public defender being appointed to represent her. A status hearing on that question has been set for July 26.
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