Virginia man who joined, escaped Islamic State gets 20 years

In this photo provided by the U.S. District Court, Alexandria, Va., Mohamad Khweis, 27, of Alexandria, Va. To the Kurdish peshmerga forces patrolling northern Iraq in March 2016, Khweis looked for all the world like an Islamic State suicide bomber. They certainly didn't peg him as a bus driver from the wealthy suburbs of Washington. (U.S. District Court, Alexandria, Va. via AP)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The only American citizen to be convicted in a U.S. jury trial of successfully joining the Islamic State overseas has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mohamad Khweis of Alexandria, Virginia, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Virginia after being convicted on terrorism charges earlier this year.

Khweis traveled to Islamic State-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria in December 2015, even obtaining an official membership card. But he found life there distasteful and escaped after a few months.

The 20-year sentence was halfway between the 35-year sentence sought by prosecutors and the five-year term requested the defense. Khweis’ lawyers argued that a harsh sentence would deter other Americans who joined the Islamic State from quitting.