Active online, foreign women become Islamic State widows

Wed Apr 22, 2015 3:19pm EDT
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By Alistair Bell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least 15 young Western women who joined Islamic State and married jihadi fighters are now widows after the militant group suffered losses in clashes in Syria and Iraq, according to researchers who closely monitor Islamist radicals online.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank in London gave Reuters access to its database of 106 foreign women it says have moved to IS territory and are active online.

Fifteen of the women have either mentioned on social media that they lost their husbands in fighting, or other known IS supporters have announced the men's deaths online, said ISD researcher Melanie Smith.

Although Reuters could not independently confirm the identities of the women, many of them have been said by relatives to have left their home countries for Syria and Iraq. Some have also been named by law enforcement officials in their countries or leave online traces, such as having geographical locators on their Twitter accounts.

Smith said most of the women believed to be widows lost their husbands in the last six months. IS, which swept through northern Iraq last June, has recently suffered some battlefield setbacks including at the Syrian city of Kobani where it was defeated by Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.

The morale of foreign women is a concern for IS because it is trying to attract females from abroad to marry Islamist fighters and populate the territory it holds.

The latest edition of the IS online magazine Dabiq urged "every (foreign) sister who has been afflicted with the loss of her husband on the battlefield" not to become disheartened.

"Be firm, my dear sister, be patient, and await your reward. "Be wary, be wary of thinking of going back (home)," it said in an article, which told foreign women that migrating to the Islamic State is a binding religious obligation.   Continued...