The 26-year-old Virginia man who was taken into custody in Iraq after he purportedly deserted the Islamic State told a Kurdish TV station Thursday that he decided to escape after he grew dissatisfied during intensive religious training in Mosul.

Mohamad Khweis told Kurdistan 24 that his life under the Islamic State in Mosul was a “very strict” regimen of prayer, eating and eight hours of daily instruction in religion and sharia law, and he soon came to realize, “I didn’t really support their ideology.”

Khweis said he stayed only about a month, then reached out to someone who could help him get back near Turkey, and he planned eventually to return to America.

“It was pretty hard to live in Mosul,” he said. “It’s not like the Western countries, you know, it’s very strict. There’s no smoking. I found it hard for everyone there.”

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Image taken the Peshmerga Forces that captured Khweis