In 2014, a former Ivy League student reportedly flew to Syria to join the Islamic State (ISIS). Four months later, he contacted the FBI asking to be rescued.
The 27-year-old man’s name has not been officially released, but several Justice Department officials and The Washington Post name him as Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.
In an interview with NBC in May, in which he is identified only as "Mo," Bhuiya shared the story of his escapes to and from war-torn Syria.
After growing up in a Muslim family in Brooklyn, New York, Bhuiya began researching conflicts in the Muslim world soon after dropping out of Columbia University. He told NBC that ISIS’s promise of an Islamic utopia led him to consider joining the organization.
In the summer of 2014 – before ISIS released its much-publicized videos of beheadings – Bhuiya flew to Istanbul, beginning a complicated process of traveling inside the borders of ISIS-controlled territory. The then-25 Bhuiya said he had no definite plan at this stage: "I was kind of winging it."
He was sent to a training camp to be instructed in Shariah law and given military training. Bhuiya said he was immediately shocked by the "bloodthirst" and "evil" he witnessed, saying, "It was just not the Islam I grew up with."
Newly unsealed court documents contain a copy of the email received by federal agents in October 2014.
"I just want to get back home," Bhuiva wrote, according to The Washington Post. "All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter, and have everything back to normal with me and my family."
The FBI was in the process of verifying Bhuiva’s identity when the man fled to a U.S. State Department outpost in Adana, Turkey. According to the Daily Mail, when the man admitted to being a member of ISIS, he was promptly arrested in the U.S.
Now, NBC reports, Bhuiva is cooperating with federal officials as he awaits trial for providing material aid to and receiving training from ISIS. Officials said defectors like Bhuiva can be valuable resources in learning why individuals join ISIS as well as in discouraging others from doing so.
Buhiva, still in federal custody, is facing up to 25 years in prison. Officials said his cooperation may be taken into account during sentencing.