(CNN) – A man who Kurdish authorities say was captured trying to leave ISIS territory says he’s a U.S. citizen from Virginia.
Analysts say he’s very likely the first American fighter to defect from ISIS in the field.
The moment of capture interrogated by Kurdish forces, the man says he’s American, that his father is Palestinian and his mother is from Iraq.
Kurdish officials say he is 26-year-old Mohamad Jamal Khweis. They say they captured him trying to leave ISIS territory in Iraq and flee home.
Kurdish TV aired an edited interview with Khweis, while he was in captivity. He said he traveled through Europe late last year, to Syria, then to Mosul, Iraq.
Khweis said he was put in a house just for foreign fighters, that life was hard and that the people who command ISIS aren’t good Muslims. He said he didn’t agree with their ideology, and that’s why he wanted to escape.
Analysts say he could be a goldmine for U.S. intelligence on the inner-workings of the terror group.
Seamus Hughes from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University says, “What I think is most interesting about this case is how he traveled. What routes did he take? And that will give us an insight into how other Americans are trying to travel to Syria and Iraq.”
CNN went to see his father, Jamal Khweis, who said, “This is wrong information. You talking to the wrong person.”
But the man clearly seemed upset, and later told reporters this: “He’s old enough. I cannot ask him where he’s going, where he’s coming from. He’s in Iraq? He’s not. I know he is. He will never go there. ”
Khweis graduated from Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2007.
Harrison Weinhold, a friend from high school, recognizes Khweis from the driver’s license. Weinhold says Mohamad Khweis was a normal teenager who made fun of people who were religious. “It’s really upsetting. It really sucks. It’s something you feel for his family. It’s just not something that you would ever think would happen. He definitely wasn’t the type of person. He wasn’t an angry person, he wasn’t an outcast by any means. He was just a normal guy. We did normal stuff in high school.”
Another friend who didn’t want to be on-camera told CNN: Khweis was a friendly and goofy kid who often joked around.
If Khweis was with ISIS, why would he have abandoned them on the battlefield and walked into the arms of the enemy?
Hughes says, “The main reason was, you know, it wasn’t what they told them it was going to be. They thought it would be this great so-called caliphate, and it’s not. And they saw the infighting, and the killing of other Muslims.”
Analysts say, 84 Americans have been charged with ISIS-related offenses. 26-year old Mohamad Jamal Khweis could be next on the list.
Law enforcement officials are now trying to find out whether Khweis acted alone in moving toward ISIS and who might have recruited him.
The FBI has not commented on whether he will be charged with material support for terrorism.
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