A Twitter account with more than 8,000 followers linked to a concerted effort by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) to recruit new people, particularly women, was operated by a young woman believed to be from Seattle, an investigation by the U.K.-based Channel 4 News found.
The alleged prominent online ISIS recruiter was identified as twenty-something Rawdah Abdisalaam.
On Twitter, she was known as @_UmmWaqqas and is pictured wearing all black from head-to-toe.
Channel 4 News reports that some of Rawdah’s friends confirmed that this was her Twitter account, which is currently suspended.
“She advocates mass emigration to Islamic State while seemingly enjoying the creature comforts of the American lifestyle, watching the Denver Broncos on a super-widescreen HDTV and tweeting pictures of double cheeseburgers,” reports the U.K. news channel.
The ISIS agent reportedly studied journalism at an unnamed university before switching her major to teaching.
Rawdah has been linked to several high-profile young women who traveled to Syria and Iraq to marry ISIS jihadists.
Aqsa Mahmood from Glasgow, Scotland, known as Umm Layth online, was in frequent contact with her before traveling to Syria in November 2013.
Umm Waqqas “has been in personal contact with Brits and Americans on the eve of their departures, and she is close to fighters and jihadi brides in Syria,” notes Channel 4 News.
“It’s not possible to prove that Umm Waqqas has personally persuaded anyone to travel to Syria,” it explains. “But in a number of cases, she has been in personal contact, on the eve of their departure, with people who have been radicalized and left to join the Islamic State group.”
Twitter suspended the @_UmmWaqqas account on April 17.
Channel 4 News allegedly held a conversation with her via her Twitter account before the date.
“In a brief conversation with Umm Waqqas herself, the internet network address she was using to communicate with Channel 4 News was located in Seattle, indicating that whoever is currently operating the account was there as recently as March,” reports the U.K. news outlet.
When Channel 4 asked if she was from Seattle, she neither confirmed nor denied it; she simply waited five minutes and wrote, “Bye.”
“The @_UmmWaqqas Twitter account has been one of the more popular pro-Islamic State accounts, particularly among women, with 8,000 followers,” mentions the report. “Her account defends ISIS brutality; she justifies the burning to death of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh as ‘an eye for an eye.’”
“While Twitter has moved aggressively in recent months to shut down ISIS-linked accounts, Umm Waqqas shared multiple ISIS documents on emigration months before her account was finally suspended earlier this month,” it continues.
One of her friends told Channel 4 that she may have moved to Medina in Saudi Arabia, while others say she may still be living in the U.S.–in Denver, Colorado.
“I’m actually lost for words,” one of her female friends from school told Channel 4 News on condition of anonymity. “The Rawdah you are referring to is a childhood friend.”
The @_UmmWaqqas tweets “sound a little to [sic] extreme to be honest … this is so weird,” she added.
Umm Waqqas posted a link to an ISIS online travel guide for those seeking to travel to ISIS’ self-declare Caliphate.
“Flick through the group’s new online ‘travel guidebook’ and her contact details are listed, alongside 17 other agents and middlemen,” reports the U.K. news channel. “Recruits are told to get in touch with these people when they make it to Turkey and want a contact in ISIS to help them cross the border.”