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Feds: Woman stole passport to travel to Syria

December 2, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota woman was charged in federal court with stealing a passport so she could travel to Syria, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Tuesday.

Yusra Ismail, 20, of St. Paul, is charged with stealing and misusing a passport, Luger said.

According to the complaint and court documents, Ismail visited a friend on Aug. 18, asked to see her passport and surreptitiously took it.

Three days later, authorities said, Ismail asked another friend to drive her to the Twin Cities airport, where she flew to Amsterdam and later traveled to Oslo, Norway. On Aug. 24, she contacted members of her family and told them she was in “Sham,” the area within Syria and Iraq where Islamic State militants are trying to establish a caliphate.

Authorities say there is no record that Ismail, who is not a U.S. citizen and cannot obtain a U.S. passport, has lawfully returned to the United States.

Omar Jamal, a Somali community advocate who has spoken with Ismail’s family, describes her as “a very young girl” who was “really confused.” He said her family is “a little bit shocked” that she allegedly left for Syria.

“She was radicalized,” Jamal said. “She was brainwashed.”

Authorities have said a handful of people are believed to have left Minnesota to join militants fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. At least one Minnesotan has died while fighting for the Islamic State.

Update hourly