ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Prosecutors and family members drew contrasting views Wednesday of a Springfield, Virginia man accused of sending thousands of dollars to ISIS.
An assistant U.S. Attorney told a federal judge that Mohammed Chhipa, 33, is so committed to violent jihad that he has spent months trying to marry a woman convicted in Alexandria federal court last year of leading an all-female fighting faction of the Islamic State.
But Chippa's family says he’s simply an activist dedicated to helping women and children. His family calls the terrorism charge against him simply a false accusation designed to discredit him.
Two men and a woman who identified themselves as relatives of Chhipa had no comment outside as they left a brief hearing. Inside, they handed reporters a statement calling the accusations against him baseless, and suggesting he’d simply been working tirelessly for years to support women and children. They declined to provide their names.
"In today's world, where advocacy for women's and children's rights is crucial, it is disheartening to witness baseless accusations leveled against dedicated activists," the statement said.
The FBI arrested Chhippa last week at his Springfield apartment, alleging he was a devoted follower of the Islamic State and had secretly wired thousand of dollars to spring ISIS women from a camp in Syria. He’s charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege he’s repeatedly expressed interest in dying a martyr and had bomb-making materials and manuals in his apartment.
He allegedly married 42-year-old Allison Fluke-Ekren, a former Kansas resident, in an online ceremony.
"[Fluke-Ekren] traveled overseas and, from in or about September 2011 through in or about May 2019, engaged in terrorist acts in multiple countries, including Syria, Libya, and Iraq," according to the Justice Department. "Fluke-Ekren ultimately served as the leader and organizer of an ISIS military battalion, known as the Khatiba Nusaybah, where she trained women on the use of automatic firing AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, and suicide belts. Over 100 women and young girls, some as young as 10-years-old, received military training from Fluke-Ekren in Syria on behalf of ISIS."
She was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Nov. 1, 2022.
The prosecutor said Chhipa unsuccessfully tried to adopt her children.
The FBI alleges he collected nearly $190,000 in digital currency and sent at least $18,000 to the digital wallets of ISIS women imprisoned in a camp in Syria.
A public defender argued for the judge to release Chhipa on home monitoring with his brother keeping an eye on him.
But the judge said the lawyer failed to overcome the presumption that people charged with terrorism are a flight risk and a danger to the community. Chhipa was ordered to be held in jail pending trial, as the judge found there are no conditions of release that would ensure he wouldn’t flee or endanger the community.