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US-born Islamic State supporter in Syria won't be allowed to return, Pompeo says

Secretary of state says Hoda Muthana 'is not a US citizen and will not be admitted' into US
24-year-old Hoda Muthana joined IS in Syria in 2014 (AFP/File photo)

The United States is refusing to allow an American-born supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group to return to the country, after she left for Syria to join the militant group, Mike Pompeo said.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, the US secretary of state said Hoda Muthana, 24, "is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States".

"She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States," Pompeo said.

The lawyer for the family, Hassan Shibly, told Middle East Eye that the US government's claims are bogus.

“They’re trying to say that she was never a citizen to begin with,” Shibly said, attributing his knowledge of the government’s claims to statements received by the family.

“They’re playing games with the vague language, and they’re going to see us in court,” he added.

Shibly told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that she was born in the US state of New Jersey.

Muthana's parents are originally from Yemen and became naturalised US citizens, according to the Counter Extremism Project at George Washington University, as reported by AFP.

Muthana's father resigned from his post as a Yemeni diplomat months prior to Muthana being born, but Shibly says that her father's prior position is why the US is attempting to say she never had citizenship.

“They’re saying her father was a diplomat when she was born, and therefore she was not entitled to citizenship. The constitution says people born in the US and ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ are US citizens, but they’re saying she wasn’t subject to the jurisdiction thereof because her father was a diplomat, but at the time of her birth her father was not a diplomat, and we have all the necessary paperwork and documents to prove that,” he told MEE.

It remains unclear whether the Donald Trump administration has revoked her US citizenship.

Later on Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he had instructed Pompeo "not to allow [her] back into the Country!"

"And [Pompeo] fully agrees," the US president wrote.

Legal challenges expected

The refusal to admit Muthana back into the US is expected to face serious legal challenges, as individuals born in the country are guaranteed American citizenship under the US Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The 24-year-old is one of the few Americans, among hundreds of other foreign nationals, who went to Syria to join IS.

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The repatriation of foreign nationals who joined the militant group, many of whom now want to return to their home countries, has raised numerous questions and concerns.

Earlier this week, the British government revoked the citizenship of UK citizen Shamima Begum, who left the country at the age of 15 to join IS in Syria.

Begum's family received a letter on Tuesday stating that the UK's Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made the decision "to deprive" Begum of her citizenship, British news outlet ITV News first reported.

Pompeo's statement on Wednesday is at odds with official US calls on other countries to bring back and prosecute their own nationals who joined IS.

"The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial," Trump said on Sunday, using another acronym for the militant group.

'Please forgive me'

In late 2014, shortly after moving to Syria, Muthana posted on Twitter a picture of four women who appeared to torch their Western passports, including an American one, several media outlets have reported.

She went on to write calls on social media to kill Americans and glorifying IS, which once held vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

But with the militant group now down to its last enclave, Muthana said she had renounced extremism and wanted to return home.

"I would tell them please forgive me for being so ignorant, and I was really young and ignorant and I was 19 when I decided to leave," she told UK newspaper The Guardian, in an interview published on Sunday, from al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria.

"I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return and I’ll never come back to the Middle East. America can take my passport and I wouldn’t mind," she said.

Muthana, who was captured in Syria by US-allied Kurdish fighters, said that she had been brainwashed online and was ashamed of her past support for the militants.

She was married three times to IS militants and has a toddler son, news outlets reported.

Extra reporting was done by Sheren Khalel.