ARBIL, Iraq, March 14, (AFP): A member of the Islamic State jihadist group with US citizenship turned himself in to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq on Monday, a senior military officer said. “This person’s name is Mohammed Jamal Amin, he holds US citizenship, has a Palestinian father and an Iraqi mother,” Major General Hashem Siti, commander of the Peshmerga’s 8th brigade, told AFP. He said the IS member was carrying $4,000 in cash and surrendered in a village near Sinjar, a city that Kurdish forces retook from IS last year.
It was not immediately clear how long the suspect had been a member of IS and what his role was. US officials in Washington could not immediately confirm the account provided by the Peshmerga. “We are aware of the reports that a US citizen allegedly fighting for ISIL (IS) has been captured by Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told reporters. “We are in touch with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to determine the veracity of the report,” he said. The United States is not one of the main sources of foreign fighters to IS, with fewer than 300 US nationals believed to have joined the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State group on Monday returned to the desert town of Rutba in western Iraq, less than a day after vacating it, officials said. The mayor of the remote town in Anbar province had warned when IS pulled out that the jihadist organisation may just be testing the population’s allegiance. “DAESH (IS) has re-established its control on the city of Rutba … which it had left the previous day,” said a senior officer in the Jazeera Operations Command in charge of the area. “DAESH came back from Al-Qaim with armoured vehicles and artillery,” the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They deployed them on the outskirts of the town and at the main entrances, as if to defend it from any attack by the security forces,” he said. “However, DAESH’s foreign leaders previously based in Rutba did not return,” he said.
Rutba lies about 390 kms (245 miles) west of Baghdad on the road to Jordan. Imad Ahmed, the town’s mayor, said “it was like a trick played by IS on the locals.” He had told AFP after IS’s pullout on Sunday that the jihadist group may be trying to lure out members of the population secretly cooperating with the security forces. Ahmed and Raja Barakat, the head of the Anbar provincial council’s security committee, confirmed that the foreign IS fighters in Rutba had not returned. Military officials had warned after the IS pullback on Sunday that the Iraqi security forces could not move in immediately to take over the town IS had abandoned.