He left the United States to join ISIS and then fled the group after five months. Now a New York City man is revealing the disturbing details of his journey into the heartland of terror — and warning others not to follow in his footsteps.
In an exclusive and unprecedented interview — which can be seen for the first time tonight on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and at greater length Sunday on Dateline’s “On Assignment” — the defector tells how he was seduced by promises of a utopian Islamic State only to find brutality and chaos when he got to Syria.
“At one point towards the end as things were getting more and more serious, I did see severed heads placed on spiked poles,” the 27-year-old, who is now in federal custody and cooperating, told NBC News.
“Like a lot of things, I just blocked it out,” said the man, who asked that he be identified only as Mo.
Mo, who attended Columbia University, is one of a small group of American citizens and residents whose names were found in ISIS personnel files obtained by NBC News and verified by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center.
In the interview, he said he became entranced by the Islamic State and its promise of a global caliphate through videos and article and used his savings to fly to Turkey in June 2014, soon after the FBI showed up on his doorstep asking questions about his online activities.
Mo tells of the harrowing night he crossed into Syria and his indoctrination at ISIS training camps on sharia law and military tactics, where he says fellow recruits were dazzled by the sight of a suicide belt.