Suspected ISIS fighter from Dearborn captured on Syrian battlefield

Robert Snell Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Ibraheem Musaibli, as seen in his high school yearbook photo, is believed to be one of only two male Americans captured alive on an Islamic State battlefield.

Dearborn — A Dearborn man believed to be fighting for the Islamic State has been captured in Syria and could face prosecution in the United States. 

Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, is believed to be one of only two male Americans captured alive on an Islamic State battlefield. He was taken into custody by coalition-backed forces this month while trying to flee the Middle Euphrates River Valley in northern Syria, according to the New York Times, which first reported his capture.

Musaibli is being held at an undisclosed facility but authorities are planning to bring him to the United States to face criminal charges.

"This is significant because it's one of the first times the Trump administration would use federal courts to prosecute a returning foreign fighter," Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, told The News.

An FBI spokesman in Detroit declined to comment Thursday.

Musaibli is identified by the newspaper as a high-school dropout who helped his father operate a perfume shop before marrying, fathering a son and moving to Yemen. He is believed to have traveled to Syria in 2015.

His sister, Fatima Musaibli, who lives in Dearborn with her parents, told The News that FBI agents searched their home eight days ago. 

“They took our phones, laptops, my brother’s old passports, a box full of stuff and said they would return it soon, but it’s been more than a week,” Fatima Musaibli told The News. 

She said Ibraheem Musaibli traveled to Yemen a few years ago but couldn't recall why he returned other than to be with his wife and young son.

She said they weren’t notified about her brother’s capture until FBI agents arrived on her doorstep and told her and her sons to sit on the living room floor and not move. 

This photo is featured on a Facebook account searched by FBI agents last year.

“Ibraheem wouldn’t do this," she said. "He’s not violent and not the type to join such a group. We didn’t believe when my brother Abdullah called saying the New York Times was doing a story.

 “We worry for him.” 

The roots of the FBI investigation were unclear Thursday.

But sealed federal court records in Detroit indicate FBI agents were investigating a man with a similar last name last year.

In January 2017, FBI agents served a search warrant on Facebook information for an account belonging to Abu Abdul Rahman Al-Musibli. The still-active account lists several friends with the last name Musaibli, including one woman in Dearborn.

The next month, in February 2017, the FBI received 820 pages of information from the man's account, according to a copy of the search warrant return obtained by The News. The document was briefly unsealed last year and obtained by The News before a judge resealed the file.

The search warrant affidavit outlining the scope of the investigation and probable cause to search the Facebook account remains sealed in federal court.

The man's Facebook account says Al-Musibli lives in Al Bayda in central Yemen, and features one photo of fighters marching on a battlefield with weapons.

Musaibli sent text messages to relatives after leaving Yemen confirming that he was joining the Islamic State, the Times reported, citing two unnamed officials familiar with the investigation.

Musaibli eventually became disillusioned after arriving in Syria, however, and his family tried to negotiate a way out with the FBI, according to the newspaper.

The FBI offered to return Musaibli to the United States if he surrendered. He refused, and negotiations stalled, the newspaper reported.