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American 'IS' fighter held in Iraq

March 14, 2016

Iraqi Kurdish sources claim that a US citizen has been captured by peshmerga forces. The 27-year-old was a member of the "Islamic State."

Syrien Kämpfer Islam Armee Jaish al-Islam Schatten Silhouette
Image: Getty Images/A.Almohibany

Muhammad Jamal Amin, who hailed from the US state of Virginia, surrendered to peshmerga forces near the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Monday.

According to US broadcaster CBS, Amin had been attempting to travel to Turkey after emerging from territory controlled by "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria.

The US broadcaster cited two Kurdish military personnel as saying he was approached by peshmerga forces, who initially fired warning shots in case he was a suicide bomber. He then identified himself as a former member of IS who wanted to surrender.

The Associated Press reported that Amin was Palestinian-American, quoting another senior Iraqi peshmerga leader, who confirmed he is being interrogated by peshmerga troops.

Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Sinjar, near where he was arrested, from IS late last year.

AP said he had been carrying a large amount of cash, three cell phones and three forms of identification. He had been fighting with IS for about two months, Kurdish reports said.

US checking reports

The US State Department said it was aware of reports of the arrest of a US citizen in Iraq.

"We are in touch with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to determine the veracity of these reports," a State Department official in Washington said on condition of anonymity.

Last week, the US announced that IS had lost more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) of territory in Syria and more than 600 fighters over the past month.

But the jihadist group still controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and has declared an Islamic "caliphate" on the territory it holds. It has also moved into Libya and other North African countries.

Syrian Kurdish fighters have been seeing an increase in the number of IS fighters surrendering following recent territorial losses, according to AP. Thousands of its fighters have been killed over the past two years.

In Iraq, IS has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks that have killed more than 170 people over the past few weeks. Iraqi officials also say the group has launched a number of chemical weapons attacks.

mm/kms (AP, Reuters)