He promised a family vacation. Now, he’s behind bars for joining forces with ISIS in Syria

A U.S. citizen with several addresses listed in South Florida in the early 2000s will spend 20 years behind bars for supporting ISIS and dragging his family along to Syria.

Emraan Ali, 55, was sentenced last week in Miami federal court after pleading guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the infamous terrorist group. After serving his time, Ali will be monitored through 20 years of supervised release.

In 2020, Ali and his son Jihad Ali, 21, were the last U.S. nationals facing charges stemming from fighting for or supporting ISIS. They, along with dozens of others, were captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Under the guise of a vacation, he took his wife, stepchild and five children in 2015 from their Trinidad and Tobago home to Brazil, Turkey and, ultimately, Syria. Ali and his family moved from the U.S. to his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago a few years before.

Ali, however, planned his journey to join the terrorist faction by setting up a financial system in the Caribbean country so that he could collect his money in Syria, according to court records. He also packed $15,000 in cash and melted down gold.

When he arrived in Turkey, Ali arranged a van ride to the Turkey-Syria border. The family had to run across the border to enter the war-ravaged country. Once in ISIS territory, the terrorist group registered Ali and his family, according to court records. The registration records kept by ISIS helped U.S. officials prove Ali’s involvement with the insurgents.

Nicknamed “Abu-Jihad al-Trinidad al-Amriki” and “Abu Jihad TNT,” Ali was also enrolled in ISIS religious and military training with other English speakers, through which he learned how to use assault rifles and machine guns, according to court records. His son Jihad, then 15, also went through the same training.

Ali’s stint as an ISIS fighter quickly ended after he was medically discharged; though that didn’t stop him from aiding the radical group.

Ali contributed to ISIS’ economy as a construction worker, helping create homes for members and later as a merchant selling livestock, cars, weapons and phones, according to court records. He even offered money remitting services to other Trinidadian ISIS fighters in Syria.

Ali, as Syrian rebel forces conquered ISIS strongholds, was finally cornered in March 2019 and had to surrender to Syrian Democratic Forces, according to court records. Until the last minute, Ali tried to fight his fate, urging other Trinidadian ISIS members to refuse to surrender in the hopes that they would allow them to relocate — and avoid jail time.

The FBI Miami Field Office investigated the international case. In February, Ali’s son Jihad appealed his conviction, but a judge upheld his five-year sentence and subsequent three years of supervised release.


© 2023 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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