Female jihadists of British origin are running a hard line religious police force in ISIS-occupied Syria that punishes women for “un-Islamic behaviour”.
The so-called Al-Khanssaa brigade is currently operating in the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, with new evidence suggesting that a number of British-born women are playing key roles in the all-women militia.
The Al-Khanssaa group is made up exclusively of single women who are paid the equivalent of around £100 ($160) a month. Duties include enforcing a strict Islamic dress code as well as searching women wearing burqas to make sure they are not enemy fighters in disguise.
They also make sure there is not “inappropriate mixing of the sexes” on the streets of Raqqa, and prevent people from engaging in anything deemed to be part of “Western culture”.
Researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) told the Telegraph that one major figure in the group is Aqsa Mahmood, a student from Glasgow, Scotland, who travelled to Syria in November last year.
ICSR believes that around 60 British women are now in Syria on Jihad, with four currently serving with the brigade. The majority of British women who have gone to the war torn country are aged 20 and under, with the ICSR reporting that many others have made enquiries about travelling following the murder of James Foley.
Mahmood, who uses the Twitter name Umm Layth, has been linked to other women who go by names Umm Haritha, Umm Ubaydiah and Umm Waqqas. Umm Ubaydiah is thought to run the social media accounts for Al-Khanssaa, while Umm Waqqas has previously described the other women as her ‘sisters’ on a social media.
ICSR research associate Melanie Smith, said: “Al-Khanssaa is a sharia law police brigade. This is Isil’s female law enforcement. We think it’s a mixture of British and French women but its social media accounts are run by the British and they are written in English.
“Given how small the community networks are – we know there are about 500 male British jihadis out there – it is quite likely these women move in the same circles as the British killer of Foley and Sotloff.”
She added that the British women have been given key roles because they are seen by the ISIS leadership to be some of the most deeply committed to the cause.
“The British women are some of the most zealous in imposing the IS laws in the region. I believe that’s why at least four of them have been chosen to join the women police force.”
Miss Smith also said that more women are heading to the warzone to join them: “In the last week I have encountered two dozen Twitter accounts of women wanting to get across the border into Syria from Turkey. The number of women wanting to go has sky rocketed in the last week.
“It is now easier for women to make jihad than men because they are under less suspicion when they leave the UK.”