The world’s most wanted female terrorist, the British Islamic convert Sally Jones, is believed to be training female Islamic State recruits to stage attacks on the West, it has been revealed.
Jones, a single mother of two from Kent, converted to Islam and headed to Syria in 2013 after meeting computer hacker Junaid Hussain, a 19-year-old from Birmingham, online. The pair married in an Islamic ceremony in Idlib, northern Syria in December 2013, before heading to Raqqa where they lived in a wealthy area with Jones’s younger son, Joe, the Telegraph has reported.
Changing her name to Sakinah Hussain, and her son’s to Hamza, Jones spent the first six weeks of her new life at a training camp in the city where she was taught Sharia law and tested for loyalty to the group; her husband meanwhile was sent to a training camp in the countryside.
A few weeks after his return he took a second wife, a young local Muslim girl. Despite this Jones appears to have remained committed both to her husband and to Islamic State, posting messages on Twitter under the name Umm Hussain al-Britani encouraging attacks on the West and vowing to behead the opponents of Islam.
She is believed to have recruited dozens of women for Islamic State in this way before her accounts were shut down.
Meanwhile Junaid, a competent hacker, quickly rose up the ranks within the terror group, recruiting sympathisers in the West to carry out lone wolf attacks, as well as masterminding some of the highest profile hacking attacks.
His efforts earned him third place on America’s hit-list, behind Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the notorious British executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John”.
In August 2015 America was successful in targeting Hussain; he was killed in a drone strike on his car. While his younger wife has gone on to remarry, Jones, 47, has remained single.
“Umm Hussain did not marry again as she is considered old and Isil fighters prefer young girls,” an activist from the underground movement Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently told the Telegraph.
She is believed to receive a monthly salary from Islamic State of $700 (£520), plus a bonus of $300 every few months for being the widow of a respected “shahid”, or martyr.
However, the death of her husband hasn’t diluted her zeal for the terror group. If anything, the activist said, she appears to have become more violent as she blames the West for her husband’s death.
Following his death she has been placed in charge of training all European female recruits, or “muhajirat”, leading the female wing of the Anwar al-Awlaki battalion, a fighting force founded by her husband composed of European recruits and tasked with planning and carrying out attacks on the West.
She teaches the women under her charge to fight, use weapons, and carry out “suicide missions against Western targets”.
A Syrian Islamic State defector confirmed her new status.
“Isil respects her because she is the widow of Junaid, who was very important to the group,” said the former fighter, who declined to be named.
“They want to send a message to their important fighters that they will respect their families and guarantee a good life for them after their death.
“Umm Hussain is also influential in her own right. She was the reason Isil was able to recruit a lot of Western girls to Raqqa: it’s not easy to convince a Christian, rock girl to become an extremist.”
Her son, who is approaching his twelfth birthday, is also being trained as a jihadi fighter in a camp for boys under the age of 14. The pupils are taught Arabic, English, French, Sharia law, and how to use weapons in combat.
Michael S. Smith II, a counter-terrorism adviser to members of the U.S. Congress, told the Telegraph he had long suspected Jones was more than just a jihadi bride.
“Earlier this year, Sally Jones implied to me (on social media) she may be training female terrorists for deployment to execute attacks in the West.
“It is unsurprising that the Islamic State may be grooming female terrorists,” he added.
“The deployment of female fighters and suicide bombers, notably women whose male family members died while waging jihad, became a common occurrence after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi organised the group now called the Islamic State.”
On Thursday, Europe’s first all-female terrorist cell were arrested in Paris plotting an attack using a car laden with gas cylinders. The car had been parked near the Notre Dame cathedral, a major landmark in the city. All three girls were known to security services as they had previously tried to travel to Syria.
Anti-terrorism prosecutor François Molins told reporters that the plot showed women had assumed a new role within Islamic State. “The terrorist organisation uses not only women, but young women, who get to know them and develop their plot from a distance,” he said.
It is not yet clear whether the girls had a direct link to Jones, but Molins added the girls had been directed remotely by “Syria-based individuals within the ranks of the Daesh [Islamic State] terrorist organisation [which] shows that this organisation intends to make combatants of women”.