An American child who was forced to appear in an ISIS propaganda video and threaten the President has spoken out for the first time since repatriating to the states.
“My message to Trump, the puppet of the Jews: Allah has promised us victory and he’s promised you defeat,” said Matthew, a boy from Indiana, who was ten years old at the time. “This battle is not going to end in Raqqa or Mosul. It’s going to end in your lands… So get ready, for the fighting has just begun.”
Matthew was forced to recite the threat by his stepfather in 2017, from the ISIS-controlled capital of Raqqa, Syria. Now in the custody of his biological father, 13-year-old Matthew says returning to the country has been “sweet relief.”
“It’s happened and it’s done. It’s all behind me now,’ he said in BBC’s Return From ISIS: A Family’s Story on Panorama. “I was so young I did not really understand any of it.”
Matthew’s mother, Samantha Sally, married his stepfather, Moroccan born Moussa Elhassani in 2012 and had a daughter. Elhassani became radicalized two years later, and in April of 2015 moved the family to Northern Syria, where he trained to become an ISIS sniper.
Sally and Elhassani had two more children before he began training Matthew to become an ISIS fighter. He recorded the boy assembling a fully loaded AK-47, and learning how to build a suicide vest, then acting out how to blow himself up.
After helping film the videos of her son, Sally secretly emailed her sister to request money to escape back to the US. She admitted that Elhassani had become violent towards her and had purchased two teenage sex slaves, who he continuously raped.
A ‘very mentally unstable’ Elhassani forced Matthew to film the video threatening Trump in August of 2017, then was killed shortly after in a drone strike. The boy was happy he was dead. “I don’t think I should have been, because a person died, but I was. We were all crying out of joy.”
After her husband’s death, Sally paid smugglers to take the family into Kurdish territory, where they were held in a detention camp for a year.
In 2018, the family was released into U.S. custody, where Sally was charged with funding terrorism for two trips to Hong Kong 2015, where she deposited $30,000 into safety deposit boxes. She pleaded guilty and received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence.
Matthew was happily reunited with his father Juan and they reside in Florida. He never thought he would make it back to the US.
‘I always said “one day I’ll be back home, one day I’ll be back home” but it never happened. So I thought “I’m just never coming home,” he said. ‘I feel sad that they would do that to a child. That’s how I feel.”