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U.S.-Born ISIS Fighter Detained In Iraq Said He "Wasn't Thinking Straight"

Iraqui-Kurdish television aired an interview on Thursday night with the 26-year-old, who has been identified as Mohamad Jamal Khweis.

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داعشي محمد امين جمال الذي سلم نفسه #البيشمركة هو #فلسطين ي الاصل قال اتينا لقتلكم لان قالوالنا #اكراد ليسوا مسلمين

An interview with the young American identified by Kurdish and U.S. officials as a member of ISIS aired on Iraqi Kurdish television Thursday night.

The 26-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia — whose state ID names him as Mohamad Jamal Khweis — said that he "made a bad decision" to join ISIS, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier reports identified him as Muhammad Jamal Amin.

In the interview, which the AP noted was significantly edited, Khweis detailed his movement from the United States to Iraq, which also included stops in London, Amsterdam, Turkey, and Syria.

With the help of a woman, he then entered the Iraqi city of Mosul, where he enrolled in Islamic studies courses.

It was then, according to his interview, that he decided to defect.

"I didn't agree with their ideology," he said.

With help from a friend, Khweis fled to the Kurdish side of the country, where he believed he would be treated better as an American.

"My message to the American people is that the life in Mosul is really, really bad," he said in the interview.

On Monday, videos of Khweis being detained by Kurdish forces in northern Iraq surfaced on social media. Kurdish and U.S. officials told press at the time that he was a U.S.-born member of ISIS.

جحش #دولة_الاسلامية صباح اليوم سلم نفسه ل #البيشمركة هو عربي من #امريكا دخل الى #سوريا ثم #العراق عن طريق #تركيا

An official from the Kurdistan Regional Government told BuzzFeed News Monday that he "believed" the information reported by local press was accurate, but said they were waiting for results of an investigation before making an official comment.

Before his state ID surfaced, local press and the Associated Press had identified Khweis as Muhammad Jamal Amin, an American citizen born in Virginia to an Iraqi mother and Palestinian father.

Iraqi-Kurdish Major General Feisal Helkani told the AP that he had been carrying a large amount of cash, a U.S. driver's license, and three cell phones.

He was taken into custody by Kurdish fighting forces known as the Peshmerga near the town of Sinjar, a frontline area of the local fight against ISIS recently taken back from the militant group by Kurdish forces in November.

In the videos, Khweis can be heard telling Kurdish forces that he is from the United States and was living in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, which has been under the control of ISIS for almost two years.

Helkani said Khweis appeared to have entered Syria by the Turkish border a few months prior and made his way to Mosul.

In a statement, the State Department said they were aware of the reports and were "in touch with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to determine the veracity of these reports."

Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Ema O'Connor at ema.oconnor@buzzfeed.com.

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