Terror figure jailed as family claims he was kidnapped by ISIS

Robert Snell Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, was flown from Syria to the United States this week to stand trial in a rare terrorism case in Detroit.

Detroit — A Dearborn man captured on a Syrian battlefield while supporting the Islamic State was ordered held without bond Wednesday on a charge of providing material support to the terrorist group.

The three-minute hearing in federal court provided the public the first look at Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, who was flown from Syria to the United States this week to stand trial in a rare terrorism case in Detroit.

A bearded Musaibli, dressed in a white jumpsuit and wearing handcuffs and ankle chains, bit his lip and nodded at relatives who sat in the front row to get their first glimpse of Musaibli in three years. Behind them was a standing-room-only courtroom filled with reporters, FBI agents and, in a nod to the significance of the case, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency, SANA, Syrian military and police forces fly their national flags on a damaged building in the Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, southern Damascus, Syria, May 22, 2018. Syrian state TV said Tuesday the military and police forces are celebrating recapturing the last neighborhoods in Damascus that were held by the rebels and the Islamic State group.

Musaibli will return to federal court for a detention hearing at 1 p.m. Friday, during which the government is expected to argue Musaibli is a flight risk and a danger to the community.

That portrayal is at odds with comments from Musaibli's relatives, who claim he was kidnapped by the terrorist group and imprisoned because he would not fight.

Relatives of Musaibli spoke to The Detroit News on Wednesday, one day after federal prosecutors unsealed a terror indictment against the 28-year-old Dearborn native.

Musaibli's family disagreed with the government allegations, saying he is not a terrorist, and faulted the FBI for failing to help free him from the Islamic State.

Ibraheem Musaibli of Dearborn is arraigned in federal court Wednesday. He was held without bond.

"My brother has NEVER had any association with any terrorist organization, nor has he ever supported these extremists," younger brother Abdullah Musaibli told The News.

Ibraheem's Musaibli's mother, Afrah Musaibli, and sister, Fatima Musaibli, attended the hearing Wednesday in white scarves — a color traditionally reserved for funerals and somber occasions — and tears seeing him for the first time in three years. 

"He’s skinnier, his skin’s darker and he’s balding … I’m scared for him," Afrah Musaibli said. "We worked as a team with the FBI for two years to bring him here. He surrendered himself over to the FBI and told them he was being held."

Ibraheem Musaibli is faithful and wanted to study more about Islam and possibly make it his life-long service -- that’s how he was lured to Syria, his mother said.

"He’s the best son a mother could ask for. When he was here, he didn’t just take our trash out, he took the neighbors’ out too," she said. "He contacted me from Syria and desperately needed help getting out."

She wiped away tears before her son was ushered out of court, his ankle chains clanging off a wooden chair lining his path.

Minutes later, Schneider, the U.S. Attorney, did not directly address the family’s criticisms but emphasized Musaibli is accused of supporting the Islamic State for more than three years starting in April 2015.

Ibraheem Musaibli -- high school yearbook photo

“That’s not a small amount of time,” Schneider told The News. “That is a significant and substantial period of time. You’ll find out at the detention hearing what really was going on.”

Abdullah Musaibli provided more details about his brother's path from Dearborn to a port city in Yemen and Iraq before his arrival in war-torn Syria approximately three years ago.

Ibraheem Musaibli was raised in Dearborn. An Edsel Ford High School dropout, Musaibli helped his father operate a perfume shop in Detroit and had no contact with police besides a few minor traffic incidents, according to the Dearborn Police. 

Eventually, he got married and moved to the port city of Aden, Yemen. He has four children, according to his father, Izzy Musaibli.

While in Yemen, his brother said, Ibraheem Musaibli started talking with fellow Muslims, who lured him to Syria in 2015. 

"My brother Ibraheem Musaibli first traveled to Iraq from Yemen to help the refugees and their families," Abdullah Musaibli wrote via Facebook Messenger. "While he was there helping out, some Muslim friends he trusted encouraged him to go to Syria. My brother REFUSED, because he knew the situation in Syria is very chaotic."

The Muslim "friends" turned out to be Islamic State members and they kidnapped Ibraheem Musaibli and forced him to join the terror group, he added.

"My brother REFUSED and they took his U.S passport and dragged him into the hell of war," Abdullah Musaibli wrote. "When he refused to support them they imprisoned him, and he was left starving and fending for himself in an ISIS prison.

"Somehow he gained access to a phone and internet by gaining their trust and he sent MULTIPLE messages to my parents to help him escape," he added. "My family then contacted the FBI and tried so hard to negotiate his release. The FBI Agents did NOTHING to help my brother, and he remained there for a couple years suffering and hoping one day to see his wife and children."

Ibraheem Musaibli never associated with terrorists or extremists, his brother said.

"My brother is NOT an extremist, he practices his religion, just like any other religion," Abdullah Musaibli wrote. "He reads the Holy Quran and he prays 5 times a day. He gives Charity, helps the poor and he has performed Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.

“Me and my family will be supporting my brother Ibraheem every step of the way,” Abduallah Musaibli added. 

Izzy Musaibli, said Ibraheem is a father of two daughters and two sons, all U.S. citizens. Three are with his wife in Yemen and one is in Pennsylvania. 

“For the past two years, Ibraheem is crying for help to get out of there, he was very disappointed of what he saw and how they understand Islam," he said. "Every time he tried to escape he end up in ISIS prison. They took his passport from him the second he was preaching against ISIS' deadly ideology."

Matthew Schneider, United States Attorney, speaking to the media outside of the courthouse on July 25, 2018.


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