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Dallas man charged with joining IS in Syria

By Darryl Coote

Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A federal judge indicted a Texas man Thursday for traveling to Syria to aid the terrorist organization Islamic State, the Department of Justice said.

Omer Kuzu, 23, is charged with conspiring to provide material support to IS, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

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According to the criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, Kuzu, who was born in Dallas, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he traveled to Turkey with his brother in October 2014 to join IS.

From there, they were smuggled into Syria by IS before he arrived in Mosul, Iraq, for combat and weapons training, the complaint said.

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Prosecutors accuse him of then being sent back to Syria, where he pledged his allegiance to IS. He was issued a weapon and paid $125 monthly to repair communications equipment for frontline IS fighters.

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Kuzu was captured by advancing U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces during its advance on the country in 2019. Recently, he was transferred to Federal Bureau of Investigation custody before being returned to Texas.

Kuzu was to make his first appearance Thursday before Magistrate Judge Irma C. Ramirez, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

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"There are few things more concerning to me than young Americans being radicalized by terrorists' violent and hateful agenda while in the United States, and then traveling abroad in order to fight for groups like [IS]," said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Coz for the Northern District of Texas. "I am grateful for the public servants who helped bring this defendant home to face justice in a U.S. courtroom."

The United States has been pushing for countries, particularly its allies in Europe, to repatriate its citizens who left to fight for IS.

In March, the SDF captured IS's final caliphate in Syria and now has over 2,000 IS prisoners from dozens of countries.

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During a cabinet meeting July 16, President Donald Trump said his administration has been attempting to convince other countries to take back their citizens to little effect.

"We now have 2,000 prisoners - [IS] prisoners. And we're telling Europe, 'Look, they were going to Europe.' They weren't coming here; they were going to Europe. 'You've got to take them.' Europe doesn't want to take them because, you know, why should they?" he said, adding, "You got to take them. They were going to you. We helped you out. We did a big thing. We can't be responsible for these people for 50 years or whatever it may be, or more."

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In early July, the United States applauded Italy for having repatriated IS fighter Samir Bougana.

"With this repatriation, Italy has provided an important example to all members of the Global Coalition and the international community on how we need to work together to address the issue of foreign terrorist fighters who have traveled to fight for [IS]," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "It is our hope that other Western European countries will follow Italy's example and take responsibility for their citizens in Syria."

Following the criminal complaint against Kuzu being unsealed, John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for National Security, said he hopes this move will encourage other countries to follow suit.

"The United States continues to demonstrate its commitment to holding accountable those who have left this country in order to join and support [IS]," he said. "... We hope countries around the world, including European allies and partners, will likewise take responsibility for their own citizens who traveled to support [IS]."

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