In August 2017, an Indiana woman's 9-year-old son appeared in an ISIS propaganda video, “promising President Donald Trump that the battle will not end in Raqqa or Mosul, but 'in your lands.'”
The video portrayed the child as an ISIS sniper with a rifle scope, federal court records state. Additional FBI-obtained footage shows the boy assembling a rifle and being coached on how to use a suicide belt.
The child was in Syria under the care of his mother, Samantha Elhassani, and her husband, Moussa Elhassani, an ISIS terrorist fighter who was later killed in Syria.
Samantha Elhassani, originally of Elkhart, was charged in federal court with aiding and abetting her husband and his brother by providing them tactical gear and funds between March 2015 and April 2015 “for their use in fighting for ISIS,” court records state. In July, Elhassani was initially charged with making false statements to the FBI, according to a statement released by the U.S. attorney's office.
On Friday, a motion was filed by Samantha Elhassani's attorney on an “emergency basis" citing the woman's deteriorating mental health as the reason for her requested release from Porter County Jail.
A hearing on the matter has been set for 11 a.m. Thursday in federal court in Hammond, where Samantha Elhassani will be present.
In April, Samantha Elhassani painted herself in an interview with PBS’ “Frontline” as a reluctant wife of an ISIS terrorist who was forced to move with her family to Syria, where her husband became an ISIS sniper in the midst of a long-simmering civil war.
However federal courts say this picture is far from accurate.
“(Samantha Elhassani's) motion portrays her as a hero to her children and other children who were with (Samantha Elhassani) during her escape from Raqqa,” The federal court's response states. “The truth is that (Samantha Elhassani) placed herself and her children in that dangerous situation and remains a continued danger to her children.”
Federal courts denied the request, saying that Samantha Elhassani is a flight risk and a risk to the community, in addition to her four children, who are all minors and have reportedly been in the custody of the Indiana Department of Child Services since July.
A second FBI-obtained video also shows an off-camera Moussa Elhassani telling the boy that if he successfully assembles and disassembles the assault rifle in front of him, he would reward the boy with a “suicide belt,” an explosive device that attaches to the wearer's body. The boy is seen in the video successfully completing the task, court records state.
Another video shows the child assembling a suicide belt and talking about the components, including metal balls, three kilograms of TNT and C4. Moussa Elhassani, who is off camera, asks the child what type of fuse he should use to operate the suicide belt and what he should do if “American pigs,” come to kidnap the boy and his mother.
“(The boy) responds that he would put the suicide belt under his shirt, walk outside waving his arms and tell American forces that he was an American who needed help,” the court document said. “He would then provide his name to draw them closer, and as they did, he would detonate the suicide belt and 'Go to heaven as a martyr.'"
Samantha Elhassani admitted to filming the video and said she did not tell her son what he proposed to do was wrong, the federal courts said.
Prior to the videos, the mother had posted photos on social media of her son holding a rifle at a gun range in February 2015 stating the boy had hit a target from 60 feet away and that he was “the next American sniper,” according to court records.
The child is Samantha Elhassani's son from a previous relationship, court records state. He was 4 years old when his mother married Moussa Elhassani and was around the age of 7 years old when the family moved to Syria between April and July 2015. The mother had allegedly lied to the boy's father about the family being on vacation, according to court documents.
“(Samantha Elhassani), who is neither Muslim, nor a supporter of ISIS or any other terrorist organization, was compelled both psychologically and physically to follow her husband's and his brother's absurd ideas,” The woman's attorney wrote.
The court responded, “Moreover the suggestion that (Samantha Elhassani) is less dangerous because she is not a Muslim is specious and offensive to millions of law-abiding Muslim Americans who deplore ISIS and its violent agenda.”
The court also refuted that the woman was an unwilling participant, stating, “The evidence in this case will show that (Samantha Elhassani) knew about Moussa's and his brother's plans for months, that she laid the groundwork for implementing their plan and that she willingly brought her children along for a treacherous ride.”
Elhassani, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go to trial in 2020.