Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq have detained an American man who they said was defecting from the Islamic State group, CBS News reported Monday, citing two unnamed sources within the peshmerga. The man, named by Kurdish news outlets as Muhammad Jamal Amin, 27, from Virginia, was reportedly trying to reach Turkey when he was detained at a checkpoint near the Iraqi town of Sinjar.
Amin crossed into Syria just two months ago, Kurdish sources reported. Peshmerga soldiers at first thought Amin was a suicide bomber as he approached their checkpoint, but after firing warning shots, he reportedly identified himself as a member of ISIS wanting to turn himself in.
Kurdish TV showed a picture along with a Virginia-issued driver’s license apparently in an attempt to identify Amin. In video footage, a man, purportedly Amin, said he was from the U.S. but that his father was Palestinian and his mother Iraqi, from the now-ISIS controlled city of Mosul. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was not immediately able to confirm the detention of a U.S. citizen, CBS reported.
An official with the Kurdistan Regional Government said it was investigating the situation, CNN reported. It remained unclear why the man was in ISIS-controlled territory, the news outlet said.
The Kurdish forces are considered key allies in the fight against ISIS. The peshmerga have been one of the most effective fighting forces on the ground. After losing some territory to the extremist group last year, peshmerga forces have managed to push back and reclaim lost land.
ISIS has attracted thousands of recruits from around the world. About a dozen Americans are believed to be fighting with the militants. ISIS has gradually lost control of its territory in recent months, particularly as a U.S.-led airstrike campaign has continued to target the group's sources of revenue.