A 25-year-old Chilean national was arrested for using social media programs such as Facebook and WhatsApp to recruit young women to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
The woman, identified as Francis Peña Orellana, had reportedly left Chile when she was 16 and was arrested in Barcelona, Spain, as part of a larger ring of ISIS recruiters. According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Orellana was arrested along with three other women–one, a minor–and a man, all of whom reportedly attempted to recruit Muslim women to leave Europe and travel to Syria and Iraq to become either “warriors” or “wives” for the jihad. Two others associated with this ring were arrested in Morocco.
According to the New York Daily News, Spanish Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández confirmed in a statement that the entire ring, not just Orellana, was mostly dedicated to recruiting women, not men, to the Islamic State. The increased efforts to attract Western Muslim women to the terror outfit followed statements from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July that the “Caliphate” needs fewer warriors and more doctors and engineers if it is to ever function as a state. Naturally, it would also need children, which makes Muslim women a coveted commodity, particularly preferable to the Yazidi and Muslim/Christian Kurdish and Arab women who are used exclusively as sex slaves for jihadists.
This ring reportedly recruited twelve women to leave Europe for Syria. They would first be consulted on Facebook through public forums, commiserating with recruiters about “the decline in Western morals,” according to El Mundo. Then they would begin speaking to recruiters privately through WhatsApp, a phone application that allows international messaging, and from there, they would be convinced to move to Syria or Iraq.
According to reports, Orellana converted to Islam after a relationship with a Muslim man and was seen wearing a burqa upon her arrest in Barcelona.
Argentine news outlet Infobae notes that the Chilean government has responded by confirming that Orellana had not been in Chile since she was 16 and stating that Chile will have some hand in her prosecution. Undersecretary of the Interior Mahmud Aleuy told 24 Horas Chile, however, that no family member in Chile has contacted the government for diplomatic aid regarding her case in Spain.
While Latin America has arguably been the least fertile ground for Islamic State recruitment, Chile has been featured in Islamic State videos, most notably a video titled “The End of Sykes-Picot,” in which a Chilean jihadist walked across the Iraq-Syria border.