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US man linked to Islamic State 'empress' faces charges for wiring money to group

Mohammed Chhipa is accused of transferring nearly $188,000 to various accounts
A sign on a lamp post bearing logo of the Islamic State (IS) group inside a town in Iraq, on 26 August 2017 (AFP)

A US man was arrested on charges of providing material support to a terrorist group, with prosecutors revealing he was in a relationship with an American woman dubbed the “empress of ISIS”.

Mohammed Chhipa, a naturalised US citizen from India who lives in Virginia, was arrested last week. Between November 2019 and July 2022, he allegedly transferred nearly $188,000 to various accounts, NBC News reported.

Nearly $18,000 was traced to the Islamic State (IS) group to support his alleged goal of helping to smuggle female IS members from detention camps. At least $61,o00 went to cryptocurrency wallets in Turkey. According to the court affidavit, money intended for Syria is often routed through Turkey.

The affidavit quotes text messages allegedly sent by Chhipa indicating that he wanted the money to be used to “bribe guards at detention camps” where the families of IS members are being held, NBC News reported. 

Chippa's family told reporters in a written statement that he was an activist looking to help women and children.

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Chhipa also allegedly met with an FBI agent or confidential source and accepted cash from the person. He then allegedly turned the money into Bitcoin and sent it to an IS member. 

According to prosecutors, Chhipa was also in a relationship with Allison Fluke-Ekren, an American woman who is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Chhipa apparently considered himself married to Ekren, though their marriage has no legal status in the US as it was allegedly conducted online. 

She pled guilty last year to organising and leading the Khatiba Nusaybah, a battalion in which girls and women learned how to use automatic weapons, as well as detonating grenades and suicide belts. 

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A detention memo states that Fluke-Ekren trained children - including her own five or six-year-old child - how to use assault rifles in Syria.

Earlier this year, Muslim cleric Abdullah el-Faisal was convicted in a US court on state terrorism charges after being extradited to New York City following an undercover police operation.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office said it was the first-ever state-level trial on terrorism charges. New York's laws on terrorism were passed a week after the 9/11 attacks.

Prosecutors said Faisal, whom they described as highly influential, had supported IS for several years, encouraging violent acts in online lectures and calling for the creation of an Islamic caliphate.

Faisal began messaging the officer - who claimed to be an aspiring militant with medical training - on WhatsApp, The New York Times reported.

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