ISIS operators are sending money to teenage girls in the United Kingdom to pay for their air-fares to the Islamic State, and offering them advice on how to travel without being caught by security services, an investigation has found.
The contact between young girls, who are being recruited as Jihadi brides, and extreme Islamists in the Islamic state by way of encrypted mobile-phone messaging apps was revealed after The Times newspaper created social media profiles for two fictional teenage girls of Somali origin. The profiles were bombarded with radical propaganda, and contacted by a man who claimed to be involved with the political administration of the Caliphate in Syria.
‘Aisha’ and ‘Fatima’ arranged to meet a middle man in a London park to receive the cash, after having received messages of advice from their Syrian contact on travelling to the Islamic State. A man named as Abu Abbas al-Lubnani by The Times sent the girls messages including “U can go to Maghrib or somewhere in Germany then to Istanbul… They stop their citizens usually but not the ones coming from outside , but you need to dress in a convenient way while travelling. U need to westernise yourself… No niqab or jilbab. Not even in the bag”.
The girls’ contact even sent them a photograph from outside of Sharia court in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, showing a masked Jihadist holding a paper sign reading “Aisha, Smile” with a picture of a smiling face as encouragement.
On what they would be doing once they arrived in the Islamic State, al-Lubnani was very clear. He wrote: “Sorry but I need to know if ur good looking , and the colours of your skin… Usually mujahideen don’t request a beauty queen but they like to have a good looking wife… There is a doctor school opened soon if ur husband agrees u can study in it”.
The investigator posing as Aisha told the contact she would meet an intermediary to receive the money with which she would travel to the Islamic State in a London park, an area specified because there would be no CCTV cameras to capture the transaction. The Times captured his arrival however, showing a white Muslim-convert and his wife, wearing a full-face veil. Their identity has not been revealed, and his face is blurred out in photographs. The paper states Britain’s counter-terror police are aware of their investigation.
London’s evening paper the Standard reports girls being recruited by the Islamic State are even younger than those fictional ones created for the sting, that teenagers as young as fourteen are being targeted in the United Kingdom using the same techniques as child sex groomers.
Haras Rafiq of British counter-extremist think-tank the Quilliam Foundation told the paper that Children were receiving more support than just money, and in some cases were even being coached in how to apply for a passport without their parents knowledge. He said “The average age is being reduced. Some of the girls getting out there are only 14.
“There are people here who have facilitated passports. Girls who are under a certain age are being accompanied by an adult over 18, usually a woman, to go help them. Help them apply for a passport, and even take them out there.
“The main areas they are working out of are in east London”.
One girl, who had bought a ticket direct from London to Istanbul was stopped by counter-terror police only as the plane she had boarded was taxiing on the runway. Rafiq said because the security services had become aware of the Istanbul route, radical Islamists were now taking indirect routes to the Islamic State to prevent interdiction by the security services.
He said: “Turkey is a route but not the major route now,” he said. “India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, these are all places where British citizens with parents or grandparents from these countries can go and get dual citizenship and slip out over there”.
The social media approach of the Islamic State has made it remarkably successful in recruiting foreign Muslims to its cause, in contrast to more serious and theologically heavy movements that preceded it like Al-Qaeda in the past. Propaganda films spread on social media mixed with pictures of kittens and home life in the Caliphate contrive to make emigration a desirable choice for young European Muslims.