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US court rules American-born woman who joined Islamic State is not a citizen

Hoda Muthana and her two-year-old son will not be allowed to join their family in Alabama after court ruling
Many foreign-born IS supporters and children are living in camps in north Syria (AFP/File photo)

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that an American-born woman who joined the Islamic State (IS) group in 2014 is not a US citizen.

Judge Reggie B Walton of Washington DC's Federal District Court abruptly dismissed a lawsuit filed by Hoda Muthana's family, who had hoped to force the government to allow her to come back to the US where she was born and raised. 

The court ruling leaves Muthana, 25, stateless, without any form of citizenship. 

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Muthana travelled to Syria to join IS in 2014 after embracing militant ideology while living with her family in Alabama.

She now has a two-year-old son - the child of a slain IS fighter - and wants to return to the US, saying she no longer supports IS ideology. 

In an interview with NBC News published last week, Muthana said she "regrets every single thing" done by the Islamic State. 

"Anyone that believes in God believes that everyone deserves a second chance, no matter how harmful their sins were," Muthana said.

The US government has repatriated several American women linked to IS, along with their children. Still, following Thursday's court ruling, Muthana has little hope of returning because she is not deemed to be a US citizen. 

Muthana was born in the US and had been issued at least two US passports, but Washington argued that Muthana was never eligible for citizenship because she is the daughter of a diplomat who was serving the Yemeni government at the time of her birth.

Children of US-based foreign diplomats do not qualify for citizenship by birthright.

While Muthana's father was discharged from his diplomatic post shortly before she was born in 1994, the US government said it was not notified of his post ending until after she was born in early 1995. 

The court ruled that there was sufficient evidence Muthana had been born while her father was still a diplomat. 

"I am a citizen, and I have papers to prove it. I am as American as a blonde-haired blue-eyed girl, and I would like to stay in my country and do American things," Muthana told NBC. 

'Just a phase'

During her time in Syria, Muthana married three IS fighters, all of whom died in combat.

She took part actively in IS propaganda, according to the Counter Extremism Project. She had urged IS sympathisers in America to "go on drive-bys, and spill all of their blood". 

Muthana also hailed an attack in 2015 in France against the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

In the interview with NBC, she said: "It was an ideology that really was just a phase." She refused to discuss those earlier comments.

Muthana told the Guardian that her family in Alabama was deeply conservative and placed restrictions on her movements and interactions, factors she claims contributed to her radicalisation. "You want to go out with your friends, and I didn't get any of that. I turned to my religion and went in too hard. I was self-taught and thought whatever I read, it was right."

She said she is willing to face the US justice system if she were allowed to re-enter the country. 

Currently, Muthana and her son are being held in northeast Syria at the Kurdish-controlled al-Roj refugee camp. 

Muthana is the only American among about 1,500 foreign women and children inside the sprawling camp of 39,000 people, the Guardian said earlier this year.