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British Woman Is Convicted of Joining ISIS
A British woman who the police said had traveled to Syria to become a "jihadi bride" was convicted Friday of joining the Islamic State, as the authorities continued to push back against a small but steady stream of women who seek to join in jihad by going to the militants' self-declared caliphate.
The woman, Tareena Shakil, 26, went to Syria in October 2014 and returned about three months later to the United Kingdom, where she was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London. She was charged with being a member of a terrorist group.
The authorities said Ms. Shakil was the first woman in the United Kingdom convicted of joining the Islamic State — also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh — although dozens of British women are suspected of having joined up in Syria and Iraq over the past 12 months.
Ms. Shakil told the police that she and her son had been kidnapped while on vacation in Turkey and taken to Syria. In a police video of her questioning, which was released to the news media on Friday, she tells investigators, "It was never my intention to enter into Syria."
Investigators said, however, that they had found evidence, including Twitter posts and pictures, that demonstrated her support for ISIS.
One picture shows Ms. Shakil posing beneath an Islamic State flag in Syria, the police said, and another shows her wearing a black balaclava with the group's logo on it.
The authorities also found a picture of her posing with her young son as he wore an ISIS hat. Another image of the boy had a nickname in the style of a jihadist nom de guerre written on it and shows him standing on a couch next to a gun.
An official who leads counterterrorism investigations in the West Midlands region of England, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, said in a statement that Ms. Shakil had been "self-radicalized by viewing extremist material on the Internet."
"Our assessment is that she was not naïve," Mr. Beale said in the statement. "She had absolutely clear intentions when she left the U.K., sending tweets encouraging the public to commit acts of terrorism here and then taking her young child to join Daesh in Syria."
Ms. Shakil was convicted in Birmingham Crown Court and will be sentenced on Monday, the West Midlands Police said. They said that she had traveled to Syria to become a "jihadi bride" but that it was unclear why she left Islamic State-controlled territory in January 2015 and returned to Britain.
During the two-week trial, she told the court that she had returned to the United Kingdom because she regretted going to Syria.
"I came back of my own free will," she said, according to the BBC. "I came back because I realized I had made a mistake."
At least 56 British women and girls are suspected of having traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State in 2015, the police said. The authorities have started an online campaign that aims to stem the tide of young people, both men and women, who have traveled to Syria to take part in the conflict there.
The police used the announcement of Ms. Shakil's conviction to draw attention to a video posted by the campaign online Jan. 11 and titled "A Message From Syrian Mothers," in which Syrian refugee women in the United Kingdom urge British women not to travel to their war-ravaged homeland and, especially, not to take their children.
"Our children are now living in security, are provided with schools, a nice life and a beautiful future," a woman who gave her name as Isaaf says in the video. "So why are you taking them to a war zone?"
[Source: By Liam Stack, The New York Times, 29Jan16]
Islamic paramilitary organizations
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