In the wake of the Orlando and San Bernadino terrorist attacks, authorities are seeing a growing presence of female jihadis in the planning and execution of Islamic State plots.
According to the Independent UK, [women] “often escape detection as they play crucial but less visible ‘behind the scenes’ roles.” The Independent also reported that “thousands of women are the ‘glue holding the organisation together.’”
The wife of Omar Mateen, Noor Salman knew of his intent to commit the attacks. She allegedly helped scout target locations with Mateen to carry out his attack. She also went with him to buy the ammunition used in the attack.
The San Bernardino terrorists were a husband and wife team. The wife of Syed Farook, Tashfeen Malik, was reported to be more religious than her husband. Breitbart News reported that there is mounting evidence that she radicalized him. During the attack, she was shooting out of the back of their SUV as police were chasing them.
“’There is a ‘very serious’ possibility’ that Malik did indeed radicalize her husband. Moreover, investigators also believe the couple had planned ‘a second attack,’ but were killed in a shootout with law enforcement before they carry it out,” Breitbart News reported.
The role the wives have played in the latest terror attacks highlight the very important role that women are playing in terror groups around the world, especially the Islamic State.
According to a study conducted by Pedro Manrique, at the University of Miami used a specific computer system that looked at people’s online profiles to identify people who fit the online profile of a terrorist. They were able to identify 24,883 men and 16,931 women who were potential terror suspects.
The study found that, “although men dominated the groups numerically, women have the most effective communications and link segments of the groups to increase cohesion.”
Women have traditionally had minor roles in jihad. Islam is a patriarchal religion, and women in groups like al-Qaeda have traditionally not been considered members. Within the Islamic State, female jihadists have long been considered part of jihad but are typically expected only to bear children to populate the “caliphate.” Increasingly, as this study shows, Islamic State terrorists are allowing women to participate in the planning and execution of attacks.
According to Pedro Manrique, “A crucial measure in covert networks is related to the capacity of a node (e.g. actor) to serve as a bridge for communications, a flow of resources or ideas, and brokerage.”
Jennifer Lawrence is a Political & National Security Reporter for Breitbart News and an assistant fellow at The London Center for Policy Research. Follow her on Twitter: @JenLawrence21 or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.