How Kansas-born Allison Fluke-Ekren went from teacher to ISIS

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How Kansas-born Allison Fluke-Ekren went from teacher to ISIS

As fighting raged in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in the fall of 2017 and the terrorists ordered women to take up arms to defend the caliphate, a Kansas-born middle-school science teacher was among the first to volunteer, instructing her pupils in how to prepare a “go-bag” with weapons and other supplies for war, according to a federal criminal indictment unsealed last month.

As a high-ranking member of ISIS, who trained in Egypt, Libya and Iraq before heading to Syria in 2012, Allison Fluke-Ekren planned to detonate explosives at an unidentified US college campus and “fantasized” about bombing a shopping mall, according to court records.

“Fluke-Ekren believed a location was a good target if it contained large amounts of congregating people,” the indictment says. “She considered any attack that did not kill a large number of individuals to be a waste of resources.”

The 42-year-old’s devotion to the terrorist cause was “off the charts,” according to a cooperating witness interviewed by the FBI. She spoke Arabic, Turkish and Spanish, and ever the teacher, was in charge of administering exams to new ISIS recruits to gauge their level of devotion to Sharia law, authorities said. She also translated speeches and articles from ISIS leaders into English. On a scale of one to 10, her radicalization and devotion to ISIS was considered “11 or 12,” the witness said.

“I am still in shock,” said Larry Miller, a retired teacher and amateur photographer who taught Fluke-Ekren science at Topeka Collegiate School in the Kansas capital where she grew up. “I can only think she was brainwashed in a way that I just can’t imagine.”

On a scale of one to 10, Fluke-Ekren’s radicalization was at an "11 or 12," according to a co-operating witness interviewed by the FBI.
On a scale of one to 10, Fluke-Ekren’s radicalization was at an “11 or 12,” according to a cooperating witness interviewed by the FBI.
4kansaskids.blogspot.com

Growing up in Topeka, Fluke-Ekren was known as Allison Elizabeth Brooks. Her father, Mark Brooks, is a Vietnam veteran and member of a local gardening club, according to public and online records. But little is known about her family, including several adult children who told authorities they wanted nothing to do with Fluke-Ekren after her arrest in Syria last month, according to court papers. Miller told The Post her family is “in shock” and said he is respecting their desire to remain private, and refused to provide any details about them.

“Her parents are normal, the family had a dog,” said Miller, adding that he knew she had converted to Islam as an adult, “but she never gave me a speech about it.”

Allison grew up in Topeka, Kansas. Her former teacher Larry Miller took this photo of her smiling under a waterfall on a summertime field trip.
Allison grew up in Topeka, Kansas. Her former teacher Larry Miller took this photo of her smiling under a waterfall on a summertime field trip.

Miller said he last saw his former pupil — “an excellent student” — in 2004 when she asked him to photograph her wedding and reception at a local Methodist church. She married James Fluke, according to public records, and first changed her name to Allison Fluke.

As a teenager, she often accompanied Miller and his wife Suzanne, a former librarian who died in March 2020, on nature walks to photograph local wildlife. Fluke-Ekren was particularly fascinated with reptiles and also helped during class field trips, he said. Miller provided The Post with a photograph he took of Fluke-Ekren on a summertime field trip to photograph wildlife. The picture shows his student smiling through her braces and cooling off under a waterfall. Another photo shows an older, more contemplative young woman sitting in a field with flowers tucked behind her ear.

Miller took this photo of Fluke-Ekren when she was in her 20s. He also photographed her first wedding. "I am still in shock," he told The Post.
Miller took this photo of Fluke-Ekren when she was in her 20s. He also photographed her first wedding. “I am still in shock,” he told The Post.

A few years later, Fluke-Ekren reached out to her former teacher asking about teaching opportunities at a local middle school. She had completed degrees in biology and teaching, and was eager to get a job, he told The Post.

Although she got the job, she abruptly moved with her new husband, Volkan Ekren, and her four children to Egypt in 2008, posting photos of the smiling family at the pyramids in a blog to update her Kansas family. “Hello everyone,” reads the chatty message, above a photo that shows both Fluke-Elkren and one of her daughters in hijabs, covering their hair. “Well, we’re now technically linked up with internet and a camera, so I can keep everyone updated with this blog.” Little is known about Volkan Ekren, who Miller said may have come from Turkey. Strangely, Ekren shows up as Volkan Allison Ekren in public records in the US that date back to 2002.

Fluke-Ekren got a job as a middle-school teacher in the US but instead went to Egypt with her family in 2008.

Photos from Fluke-Ekren’s blog show her family enjoying life in Egypt before they moved to Syria.

The future terrorist set up a blog to keep her family back in Kansas updated on her adventures in Egypt.

Fluke-Ekren returned to Kansas in April 2010 for the birth of her fifth child, Zaid, who was born in Wichita. “All through the labor I was hoping that it would take long enough for Volkan to arrive and it did,” she said. “Volkan came into the hospital like a knight in shining armor about 11:30 pm, and Zaid arrived at 1:45. I think I was a little too grumpy and in pain to show him how much I appreciated his being there.” Fluke-Ekren also thanked her mother and “dear friend” Heather for being by her side during the birth.

But Fluke-Ekren was living a double life that her family likely knew nothing about. She was criss-crossing the Middle East, traveling to Libya and Iraq where she and her husband — a skilled sniper — were increasingly involved in terrorist activities, according to court papers. (Fluke-Ekren appeared in an Alexandria, Va., federal courtroom Thursday afternoon.)

Fluke-Ekren became the leader of the all-female Khatiba Nusaybah, training female recruits to become guerrilla fighters, officials said.
Fluke-Ekren became the leader of the all-female Khatiba Nusaybah, training female recruits to become guerrilla fighters, officials said.
4kansaskids.blogspot.com

Four years after Zaid’s birth, the family established itself in Syria although a witness told the FBI that they were “smuggled into Syria” in 2012 after spending a year in Libya because Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al Qaeda terrorists in the country, was no longer conducting attacks there.

Fluke-Ekren settled first in Al-Bab, an ISIS stronghold in northern Syria. But when bombings became too frequent, the family moved, eventually settling in Raqqa where Fluke-Ekren became known as Umm Mohammed al-Amriki. She became the leader of the all-female Khatiba Nusaybah, training female recruits to become guerrilla fighters who could sneak into enemy territory and detonate grenades and suicide belts when they ran out of ammunition for their AK-47s, court records say.

Fluke-Ekren's daughter was interviewed by a CBS correspondent in October. Dressed in a black burka, she said she was six months pregnant.
Fluke-Ekren’s daughter was interviewed by a CBS correspondent in October. Dressed in a black burka, she said she was six months pregnant.

Those who knew Fluke-Ekren told US authorities that they rarely saw her without her submachine gun strapped to her shoulder. One witness even described seeing Fluke-Ekren’s five-year-old son wielding an AK-47 at the family home in Syria.

“I never once saw anything that would lead me to believe that she was a violent person,” Miller told The Post. “I am still in shock, and just want to know what happened in her life to change her so much.”

After her sniper husband was killed in an airstrike in 2016, Fluke-Ekren married a Bangladeshi member of ISIS who was experimenting with attaching chemical weapons to drones, according to the indictment. Shortly after his death, she married a fourth time — to “a prominent ISIS military leader who has been responsible for ISIS’s defense of Raqqa,” according to court papers. A witness said she took in at least one child whose parents had died while participating in a suicide bombing in Syria.

After her husband died in a drone strike, Fluke-Ekren married a Bangladeshi member of ISIS who was experimenting with attaching chemical weapons to drones, according to an indictment.
After her husband died in a drone strike, Fluke-Ekren married a Bangladeshi member of ISIS who was experimenting with attaching chemical weapons to drones, according to an indictment.
4kansaskids.blogspot.com

As Raqqa fell to US-led forces in the fall of 2017, Fluke-Ekren disappeared, but one of her daughters was captured. The unidentified 15-year-old was interviewed by a CBS correspondent in October. She was dressed in a black burka, and was six months pregnant, she said. She said she grew up in Kansas and that her father had smuggled the family against her will to Syria in 2012. “My father, of course, didn’t tell us we were coming to Syria when it came time to get out of the car and cross the border,” she said. “It was a really big shock.”

The girl, who described herself as a prisoner of ISIS, told the reporter that she was searching for her mother.

“Hi mom, if you see this video, please contact me,” she said.

In photos Fluke-Ekren appears to be a normal mother, surrounded by happy children. But she was living a dangerous double life, officials said.
In photos Fluke-Ekren appears to be a normal mother, surrounded by happy children. But she was living a dangerous double life, officials said.
4kansaskids.blogspot.com

A CBS producer who had worked on the story contacted Miller instead. The producer reached out via Facebook and identified the young woman as the daughter of Allison Fluke-Ekren, according to digital correspondence viewed by The Post. The girl had “suffered great trauma at the hands of ISIS,” the producer said in his message to Miller. The producer wanted to know if Miller knew anything about Fluke-Ekren’s whereabouts

In the video, the girl describes graphic scenes of war — “a person’s intestines on the street. There’s a head cut off from the shrapnel. There’s a leg,” she said.

An ISIS fighter waves a flag for the caliphate in Raqqa, Syria, in 2015. Two years later, as Raqqa fell to US forces, Fluke-Ekren is said to have fled the city.
An ISIS fighter waves a flag for the caliphate in Raqqa, Syria, in 2015. Two years later, as Raqqa fell to US forces, Fluke-Ekren is said to have fled the city.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It’s not clear what happened to the daughter, but the indictment cites a cooperating witness, known as “CW-3,” who “is one of Fluke-Ekren’s family members” and was present with Fluke-Ekren at “various times” in ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. That witness described Fluke-Ekren’s desire to conduct an attack on a US shopping mall. “CW-3 stated that Fluke-Ekren did not pursue such an attack because her now-deceased husband objected.” In a footnote, the Department of Justice noted that the US government had provided the witness with “certain logistical benefits” in exchange for the testimony.

Fluke-Ekren appeared in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday afternoon.
Fluke-Ekren appeared in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday afternoon.
Samuel Corum

Although the indictment outlines Fluke-Ekren’s commitment to radical Islam, it does not offer explanations as to how she became radicalized in the first place — a thought that has obsessed Miller since he first heard about her arrest last month.

“Something happened,” said Miller, who lost communication with her in 2009. “I don’t know what happened but something happened.”

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