LONDON: A Kansas woman once described as a doe-eyed “all-American girl” has been denied bail from a jail in the US, where she faces terrorism charges for allegedly leading a female Daesh battalion in Syria.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, is accused of training children as young as 6 to use machine guns and planning to commit “violent jihad.”
She was denied bail after appearing in court in Virginia on Thursday, and could face decades behind bars.
Fluke-Ekren, a former school teacher, rose through the ranks of Daesh to ultimately command her own battalion of fighters.
Her former science teacher Larry Miller told the BBC that he was utterly stunned at the news of her ties to the terror group.
“She was a very, very good student. She was intelligent and had a sense of humor,” he said. “Her parents were very, very supportive.”
About 15 years ago, he received an email from her saying how much she admired him as a teacher.
“It was this really nice letter, saying how she had this love for science and nature, and that she was getting a degree to teach,” he said. “She never did anything that indicated to me that she wanted to harm another living thing.”
Witnesses later told US prosecutors that her views were “a ‘11 or a 12’ on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely radicalized.”
It is not clear how she became radicalized, but prosecutors believe it was around the time that her and her husband lived in the Middle East with their children in the late 2000s.
She was smuggled to Syria in 2021, where she began her life as a Daesh acolyte. Fluke-Ekren is believed to have become deeply involved with Daesh activities, marrying several fighters after her husband died, and training women and girls to use guns, detonate bombs and use suicide belts.
One witness said they had observed one of her children, then aged 5 or 6, holding a machine gun at her residence while living in Syria.
Fluke-Ekren did not contest the judge’s ruling that she should remain in jail without bail, a decision made on the basis of the threat she poses to the local community.
Miller asked: “How does someone like Allison, an all-American girl, become a person that wants to go out and kill?” She must have been “brainwashed,” he concluded.