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One sleeve of Abdelhamid Al-Madioum's orange sweatshirt dangled where his right arm once was as he walked into a Minneapolis federal courtroom Thursday a decade older than he was when he began devouring the terror propaganda that led him to Syria.

Ushered by a U.S. Marshal, the 27-year-old St. Louis Park man took just two steps before he froze in place and smiled. At the back of the courtroom sat his parents and his two young sons who were born amid warfare and brought to the United States just last month.

"The most valuable babies," Al-Madioum told his attorney before a federal judge would impose a 10-year prison sentence for joining and fighting for ISIS.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery explained to Al-Madioum that his case was "extraordinary in many senses." Between his extensive help with terror investigations around the world since his 2019 surrender, to the government he "abandoned and sabotaged" rising to his aid, and the incredible return of his young boys to safety.

Thursday's sentencing marked the latest chapter in one of the nation's rarest terrorism recruitment cases: Of the estimated 300 Americans who traveled to join ISIS abroad, Al-Madioum is among barely a dozen to survive and be sent back to the U.S. for prosecution.

Al-Madioum's 7-year-old son and 9-year-old stepson wore dress shirts neatly tucked into their pants as they rocked back and forth on the wooden courtroom bench and smiled at their father. They are now being raised by Al-Madioum's parents and have been in the country barely a month after the U.S. State Department recovered them from a camp in Syria. Their mother was shot dead in front of the family as Syrian forces closed in on ISIS territory in 2019 and buried in a trench Al-Madioum had dug to try to protect them from airstrikes.

"I know I put you through so much," Al-Madioum told his family Thursday. "I did it with the belief that it was my religious duty. That's no excuse: My first duty should have been to you."

He told his parents that the two boys were "the only good thing I've given you in a decade."

The Star Tribune first reported Al-Madioum's joining ISIS in 2017. Born in Morocco but raised in St. Louis Park, Al-Madioum became "self-radicalized" when, as an engineering student at Normandale Community College, he connected online with an ISIS recruiter who helped him plan his travel to the group. Early one morning in 2015, he snuck out of his family's vacation home in Morocco to board a flight to Turkey. With the aid of ISIS operatives, he crossed the border into Syria and enlisted.

Manny Atwal, Al-Madioum's attorney, said he spent 50 days as a soldier before an explosion required the amputation of his right arm and caused lasting mental and physical trauma that may also require the removal of a leg. Al-Madioum also served as an administrator for ISIS for six months, helping maintain a database of records on its soldiers.

Atwal said Al-Madioum is expected to receive about half – 63 months – of his sentence as time served, which includes 18 months in harsh conditions in a Syrian prison. The U.S. government brought Al-Madioum back in 2020 to face prosecution, and he soon pleaded guilty and began assisting the government in terror probes. That included testimony against a Michigan man who served in the same ISIS battalion. After being found guilty of supporting a designated terror group, Ibraheem Izzy Musaibli was sentenced to 14 years in prison last year.

Montgomery's sentence landed in the middle of the seven years sought by Atwal and the 12-year term pursued by prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter acknowledged that Al-Madioum provided "substantial assistance" since his arrest but said he still deserved consequences for joining one of the world's most notorious terror organizations.

"It's the willingness of this defendant and defendants like him all over the world ... that allowed ISIS to flourish, proliferate and inflict all of the evils for which they're now so notorious," Winter told Montgomery.

Al-Madioum insisted Thursday that none of his cooperation with the government has been transactional, and neither Winter or Montgomery doubted his sincerity.

"I'm doing it for a moral reason because it is the right thing to do to protect innocent lives," he said. "I owe it to the nation that has given me everything."

Atwal referenced sealed letters of support sent to Montgomery, including one from an incarcerated U.S. military veteran who befriended Al-Madioum and another from the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and assistant secretary-general of the United Nations in Afghanistan who helped find and retrieve Al-Madioum's sons from an orphanage camp.

Peter Galbraith, the diplomat who has been deeply involved in negotiating the returns of children born under ISIS control, told the Star Tribune in April that Al-Madioum's "is the only case of somebody who had been a fighter with ISIS who survived and, from prison, was able to locate his children."

Montgomery also alluded to a sealed filing from the government that described Al-Madioum as "almost" totally cooperating. There appeared to be a question over whether another wife of Al-Madioum— from whom he said he was separated while living under ISIS — was still alive. Al-Madioum had two daughters with that woman and Atwal said he has offered to connect with her if she's alive.

"He's only doing that if there is any chance his two daughters may be alive," she said. "He's not trying to cover up or have allegiance to ISIS. It's just because of the fact that this is the mother of his daughters."

Al-Madioum told the court that after living for five years in chaos and lawlessness, "I really see the value of our institutions." He said no one in the government had treated him with "anything less than dignity and respect" and because of that "I have had a complete change of heart on my way from Damascus."

Atwal said Al-Madioum has "not discussed the full trauma he has seen." Al-Madioum grows physically ill when discussing his time in ISIS territory, he said, and Atwal warned that he will require extensive therapy.

Montgomery said she will recommend that the Bureau of Prisons house Al-Madioum at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, citing his extensive physical and mental health needs.

"I've got a lot of faith that the rest of your life is going to be a lot more comfortable," Montgomery said, before cautioning that "it's not going to be smooth pavement."

"Those boys need you," she said. "I'm confident you'll get there."

"I will, your honor," he replied.