A young American man accused of fighting for ISIS said it was a “bad decision” to go to Iraq and that he was trying to get home when he was captured by Kurdish forces earlier this week.
Speaking to the Kurdish news outlet K24, the man identified by Kurdish officials as 26-year-old Mohamad Jamal Khweis of Virginia, said he ended up in Mosul, a large ISIS-controlled city in Iraq, after meeting a woman.
“At the time I made the decision, I was not thinking straight. On the way there I regretted, and I wanted to go back home after things didn’t work out and saw myself living in such an environment,” he said. Khweis said conditions in Mosul are “very difficult.”
“I stayed there about a month, and I found it very, very hard to live there. I decided to return back home,” he said. According to Khweis, he regretted “going off with Daesh,” an alternate term for ISIS, and was trying to make contact with Kurdish forces when he was captured Monday.
Khweis said he attended a mosque in the U.S. “but not that frequently.” As for how he got to ISIS-controlled territory, Khweis said he left the U.S. in December and went to Europe. “I first went to the London. I stayed there not that long. From there, I moved to Amsterdam, where I stayed about a week.”
Later, Khweis went to Turkey and there he met an Iraqi girl. He stayed there for some time, he said. “We spent some time together, and she said that she is from Mosul, Iraq. I don’t know the exact places we passed by, but we arrived in Mosul on January 16,” he said.
At the end of the interview, Khweis addressed the American people directly and said, “Life in Mosul is really, very bad. The people who control Mosul don’t represent a religion.”
A video posted on social media Monday appeared to show the young man’s surrender. In it, he tells Kurdish military officials he is American. Earlier this week Kurdish officials said the 26-year-old had been among a small group of ISIS fighters with whom they exchanged fire a day before the surrender.