Trump Says U.S. Won't Take Back Alabama Woman Who Joined ISIS
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’s told Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to bar an Alabama woman who joined Islamic State and now expresses remorse from returning to the U.S.
"I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!" the president tweeted on Wednesday.
Muthana, 24, was smuggled into Syria from Turkey four years ago and has been married to three Islamic State fighters over that time, according to the New York Times. Earlier this year -- as the terrorist group lost control of its territorial strongholds in Syria -- she surrendered to American troops. She subsequently asked to come back to the U.S., saying she regretted her decision to join the terrorist organization.
“When I left to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman. I thought that I understood my religious beliefs,” Muthana said in a handwritten note obtained by CNN.
The wartime death of two husbands and the birth of her child changed her perspective, she said.
"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," she wrote.
While Muthana was born in the United States, Pompeo said earlier Wednesday that she isn’t a U.S. citizen and won’t be admitted into the country.
“She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement.
A lawyer representing Muthana’s family told the New York Times that the State Department appeared to be basing its claim on a provision that doesn’t bestow birthright citizenship on the children of diplomats working in the country. But that shouldn’t apply in Muthana’s case because her father was discharged from his position as a Yemeni envoy to the United States weeks before she was born, the family attorney, Charlie Swift, told the newspaper.
A State Department spokesman said Tuesday that “generically” it was the position of the U.S. to bring back American citizens who had traveled to other countries to become terrorist fighters.
“Our policy in this regard would be to repatriate them, and it’s what we call on all countries to do,” Robert Palladino told reporters. He said the government was "considering various alternative disposition options for foreign terrorist fighters who cannot be repatriated."
Even if Muthana were permitted back into the U.S., she could face a criminal or military trial. The U.S. is considering the transfer of some of the most hardened Islamic State fighters to the American military camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the alleged perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks are still held amid years of pretrial legal maneuvering.
On Saturday, Trump demanded that European nations take back their fighters who joined Islamic State, warning that they might otherwise be released.
“Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing,” Trump said in a tweet.
U.S. officials have estimated there are about 800 prisoners from four dozen countries at Kurdish-run prisons and holding facilities across northern Syria. Kurdish officials have estimated the number of family members of captured fighters may top 4,000.
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