Women Jihadists Afoot in Europe


Radical Islam’s special subjugation of women poses special challenges for security officials.

CounterJihad, Sept. 16, 2016:

CNN reports that, as the Islamic State (ISIS) loses territory in the Middle East, the women it recruited as wives for its Caliphate are becoming terrorists instead.

[B]y using women, ISIS can perform something of a jujitsu move, using the enemy’s force against him. The more police focus on those fitting the typical terrorist profile, males, the easier it is for women to escape detection. And if their attacks succeed, the mere fact that women carried them out somehow amplifies the attack’s propaganda value.
Last week’s capture of the alleged French cell may have slowed or prevented the first wave of now-activated female networks: One of them was said to be carrying in her purse a letterswearing allegiance to ISIS and declaring, “I am attacking you and your lands in order to terrorize you.” Another, identified by police as Sarah H., had reportedly twice been engaged to ISIS killers. Her first fiancé was Larossi Abballah, the man whostabbed to death two French police officials at their home and held their 3-year-old hostage for several hours in the city of Magnanville last June. After Aballah was killed, Sarah H. was reportedly engaged to one of the ISIS operatives who slit the throat of Jacques Hamel, a Catholic priest in Normandy. The gruesome assassination of Hamel was carried out as parishioners watched in horror.

The use of women to carry out terror attacks is not new, and is often the mark of a severe form of mental subjugation.  Very often female suicide bombers are rape victims, promised that in martyrdom — and only in martyrdom — they can wash away the shame they have been taught to feel over their abuse.  This is in contravention to most terrorist organizations with female members worldwide:

Why women join terrorist groups varies widely, but in general terms the female terrorists of the late 20th century joined voluntarily. Women in the Provisional IRA, according to interviews for my book, were never forced and many Tamil women in Sri Lanka were equally enthusiastic participants. This continues to be the case with women terrorists in Chechnya, and with Hamas, where women actually lobbied for the right to participate alongside men. But a new phenomenon has emerged with the coercion of women into terrorism by jihadi groups. The vast majority of the female suicide bombers in Diyala province in Iraq, for example, were selectively targeted and then raped before being given no option but to become bombers. The Sunday Times reported that a woman named Samira Ahmed Jassim organised the rape and recruitment of 80 women in this way.

Boko Haram has likewise first tortured women with rape and abuse, and then later trained them to murder.  They are instructed in everything from how to best cut a throat, to how to conceal bombs in their robes and in the baskets that women often carry in that part of Africa.

Other women join voluntarily, of course.  The Chechen campaign against the Russians featured suicide terrorists called “the Black Widows,” whose husbands had been killed by the Russian security forces.  They were willing to die to avenge their husbands, as well as for family honor.  Many of these who have sought out ISIS for their own reasons may be amenable to violence, even suicidal violence.  And, reputedly, at least one Palestinian cleric has been promising that women who die in suicide terrorism will receive — in lieu of 72 virgins — one young man “with a penis that never bends.”  Perhaps that is enough incentive for some.

Nevertheless, they pose a serious challenge to security personnel.  The modest dress demanded by Islamists makes it easy to conceal weapons and bombs.  These radical Islamic communities have cultural norms that make searching women a high offense.  Explosive reactions to female searches contribute to the unwillingness of many police to violate these strictures.  As a result, women are both quite capable of concealing bombs or weapons and less likely to undergo the intrusive searches that would be necessary to reveal the fact.

As CNN says, when a woman carries out a terrorist attack for some reason it seems like an especial coup.  The United States experienced that last year during the San Bernardino killings, in which one of the killers was the mother of a newborn babe.  That she would prefer to die for her faith than live for her child is shocking to the conscience, though perhaps it ought not to be.  We, after all, are the ones who believe that a woman should have a choice whether to prefer motherhood or a career.  How ironic that she should have given her life to destroy the society that honors her right to make such a decision for herself.

Women and Jihad

California_Shootings_Making_A_Radical.JPEG-09917_c0-187-2000-1353_s885x516The Cipher Brief, by Katharine Gorka, April 15, 2016:

When Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook killed 14 people at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, California, the detail that stood out the most is that the perpetrators were a man and a woman, and that Tashfeen was not just a woman but a mother.  Indeed, that the couple had dropped off their six-month old child shortly before their attack seemed to draw as much consternation as the fact of the attack itself. It is not just an innate sexism that leads us to assume women do not commit violent crimes.  On average only four percent of active shootings in the U.S. are perpetrated by women, and currently women constitute only 17 percent of felony defendants in the United States. So to assume women make unlikely jihadists is not unreasonable.

But the San Bernardino shooting taught us that in spite of Islamic strictures against putting women on the battlefield, the ideology of violent jihad is drawing both female and male supporters.  Moreover, women have long proven their capability for violence.  As Audrey Alexander, Research Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, explains, “We typically do not think that women can be violent or extreme.  But history says otherwise.  Ever since the Anarchist movement, which kick started modern terrorism at the end of the 19th century, women have taken active part in most terrorist organizations.”

The foundational document of contemporary jihad, Abdullah Azzam’s fatwa The Defense of Muslim Lands (1979), laid a clear path for women to take part in jihad. He wrote: “If a stretch of Muslim territory is attacked, jihad is an individual duty for those who inhabit that territory and those who are neighbors….In such a situation, a husband’s permission is not required for his wife to fight.”  Given the role of women in the Qu’ran and in the life of Mohammed, this was not entirely un-Islamic.

Muhammad’s youngest wife A’isha had led an army of 3,000 in the Battle of the Camel, and several of the female Companions of Mohammed fought on the battlefield as well.  One woman, Nusayba bint Ka’ab, is even credited with saving Mohammed’s life in the Battle of Uhud by shielding him from stones and arrows.  But the early jihadists and founders of al Qaeda—Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri—ultimately defaulted to the more traditional ideas about women that are founded on the Qu’ran: “Men are guardians of women, because Allah has made one superior to the other” (4:34); and on the hadith: “Never shall a folk prosper who have appointed a woman to rule them.”

In other words, women were to support their men, not to fight alongside them.  Al Qaeda used the alleged violation of their women by the West in order to incite jihad, but they did not invite women to join the jihad. The Al Qaeda Training Manual (attributed to bin Laden but likely written by Ayman al Zawahiri), specified that married brothers should not even talk with their wives about “Jihad work,” much less persuade them to join the fight.

Women thus remained largely absent from the jihadist battlefield through the 1980s and 1990s, when the principle base for jihad was in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan.  It was only in 2004, as the locus of jihadist movements began to shift back to the Middle East, that women’s status significantly changed.

On January 14, 2004, Reem al-Rayashi, a Palestinian mother of two, carried out a suicide attack that created a global uproar, not least among Muslims (it was the eighth suicide attack by a Palestinian woman, but only the second by a woman who was also a mother).  In response, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most popular and influential conservative Muslim cleric, wrote a fatwa addressing this issue.  Not only did he fully endorse suicide bombing as a tactic, writing, “The martyr operation is the greatest of all sorts of jihad in the cause of Allah,” he also endorsed the notion of female suicide bombers: “When jihad becomes an individual duty, as when the enemy seizes the Muslim territory, a woman becomes entitled to take part in it alongside men…even without the consent of her husband.”

Qaradawi even pointed out that there might be advantages to using women in carrying out jihadist operations: “…the organizers of these martyr operations can benefit from some, believing women as they may do, in some cases, what is impossible for men to do.”

Given Qaradawi’s reach and popularity—his TV program on Al Jazeera, “Sharia and Life,” reaches an estimated 60 million viewers—it should not be surprising that his approval of female jihadists quickly bore fruit.  In 2005, a woman carried out a suicide attack for al Qaeda for the first time. She dressed as a man and walked unnoticed into a group of military recruits, killing herself and five men. Several other female suicide bombers then followed, but always from al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), not al Qaeda central.  It was the Jordanian-born terrorist and the founder of AQI, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who had introduced the female jihadist to al Qaeda, and indeed it was he who laid the groundwork for the more active role women play today in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  While Qaradawi’s fatwa likely had an impact in loosening the theological strictures against female jihadists, Zarqawi gets the credit for operationalizing their use.

Today, women have a prominent—if complicated—role in ISIS. ISIS’s slave markets have been well covered in the news, as have the stories of ISIS brides—women and girls as young as 15 traveling to Syria and Iraq in order to marry mujahedeen.  And while there is extensive abuse of women and girls, there are also stories of important roles played by women.  When the wife of ISIS financier Abu Sayyaf was captured in May 2015, the United States learned that ISIS leaders had been running their communications through their wives, whom they felt were less likely to be monitored by foreign intelligence.

Overall the number of girls and women supporting ISIS remains small relative to male participation:  Since March 2014, of the 98 supporters of ISIS who have been interdicted in the United States, only 16 have been female (16 percent).  Eight of those have tried to travel to Syria or Iraq, five have been facilitators or promoters, and three have been domestic plotters.  Only one from this last group, Tashfeen Malik, actually carried out an attack.

Like al Qaeda, ISIS officially supports a traditional role for women. An article entitled, “A Jihad Without Fighting,” in Issue 11 of Dabiq, ISIS’s online magazine, articulates what is likely their official line on women as fighters.  They are not obligated to participate in jihād, writes Umm Sumayyah al-Muhajirah, except in self-defense. Their role, instead, is to build the Ummah, produce men, and “send them out to the fierceness of battle.” Women are therefore relegated to the role of wives to the mujahidin and mothers to the lion cubs. This may be the official position, but the reality is very different:  ISIS has proven itself more than willing to exploit women as well as children in every possible way, and somehow, in spite of the stories of horrific abuse, women and girls are showing themselves willing to be recruited.

The end result is that while women continue to constitute a small percentage of ISIS supporters, that number is far greater than we ever saw under al Qaeda. The West therefore needs to abandon its assumptions that Muslim women will not engage in jihad, or that girls are not vulnerable to recruitment.  As Mia Bloom has written, “Increasingly…the ‘weakest’ members of society, notably women and children, have been drawn into the fray as operatives. Once an occasional occurrence, the use of women is growing at an alarming rate. Using female recruits provides the terrorist organizations with a comparative advantage, particularly the element of surprise.”

The bottom line is that ISIS has proven itself willing to violate even the most sacred societal norms—using women and children in battle, raping children, attacking civilians—and yet their ideology is as persuasive among women as it is men.  Moreover, this enemy is endlessly adapting—if it will help them gain an advantage, they will use women and even children on the battlefield.

The good news is that there are obvious cracks in the armor.  The same article in Dabiq that explains how women can participate in jihad without fighting betrays what must be very vocal discontent among the ISIS wives:

“So why do we find some of the mujāhidīn’s wives complaining about their lives? If she hears of an imminent battle that he will be in, she gets angry. If she sees him putting on war armor, she gets upset. If he goes out for ribāt, she gets in a bad mood. If he returns late, she complains.”

The article spends far more time telling the women to stop complaining than it does laying out the ideology of jihad.  Those who are trying fighting ISIS have a clear opportunity here to amplify the discontent of the ISIS brides as a way to dissuade would-be recruits.  But at the same time, we in the West must wake up to the reality that women are now a serious component in this battle and overcome our innate resistance to the idea of women as jihadists.  The enemy certainly has.

katherine_gorkaKatharine Cornell Gorka is the President of Threat Knowledge Group, which provides training and expertise on threats to U.S. national security.  She works closely with U.S. government agencies, law enforcement and the intelligence community.  From 2008 to 2014 Katharine served as executive director of the Westminster Institute, a think-tank based in McLean, Virginia. She co-edited the volume, Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Islamism to Communism and most recently co-authored the report ISIS: The Domestic Threat

How Islamists Brainwash Female Suicide Bombers

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By Counter Jihad, April 8, 2016:

As War on the Rocks points out today, there is a hot debate about the role of women in violent extremism.  Against those who argue that there is nothing to be gained by thinking about women differently than men, there is substantial evidence that women are brought into violent extremism in unique ways.  This is especially true in Islamist movements.

The New York Times today has an article on the ways in which Boko Haram instructs female captives to become suicide bombers and Islamist killers.  At least 105 women under their control have detonated themselves in attacks on everything from markets to refugee camps.  Last month, a pair of female suicide bombers conducted a coordinated attack on morning prayers.  The first woman detonated herself inside, but the second waited until a people fleeing formed a mob outside.  Going amongst them, she blew herself up among the survivors of the first bomb.

Boko Haram, which has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS), is especially successful at brainwashing its captives.  Girls kidnapped from families are subject to rape and torture, which breaks down their sense of self and pride.  Then imams among the organization tell them they brought the shame upon themselves by not adhering to what is described as the beauty of radical Islam.  Suicide bombing is a path to heaven.  Many of these young women choose it, trading the shame and pain for an escape and a promise of a glorious afterlife.

Female suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon.  The first known female suicide bomber was deployed against an Israeli convoy in 1985.  Russian security services have stated that the majority of the suicide bombers they encounter are female, although the number seems to be around a quarter worldwide.  The Russians describe it as a method of disposing of expensive-to-care-for widows and orphans of deceased Islamist fighters.  It is also a way of disposing of women who have been raped too often to be married off again.

Rape is something many female suicide bombers have in common. Considered spoiled goods and unmarriageable in their patriarchal cultures, they view becoming human bombs as a form of purification by fire. Dhanu, Prime Minister Gandhi’s assassin, was also allegedly raped by soldiers from the Indian Peacekeeping Force when it was posted in Sri Lanka for three years.

There is also a Muslim Brotherhood connection.  Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood, is the one who issued the most prominent fatwa legalizing the use of women as bombs.  He issued a ruling that legalized suicide bombings in 2001, which Hamas — originally ‘the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood’ — cites as its authority for its own campaign.  In 2003, he issued a follow-up ruling legalizing the use of women in this way.  Al Qaeda’s propaganda magazine al’Khansaa picked up the narrative the next year, spreading the ideal of women as martyrs for jihad worldwide.

As Washington Post reporter Mia Bloom notes, in traditional Islamic cultures women bombers create a dilemma for security services.  If security services do not aggressively search women, these bombers can pass easily by checkpoints.  If they do, the regular and repeated violation of norms of female privacy enrage the local population and make recruiting easier for the radicals.

Between the brainwashing and the sharia ideology’s promise of heaven, women suicide bombers are here to stay.  It may seem perverse that women could be kidnapped from their society only to be returned as bombs, but it is a feature of the enemy’s way of war.

Also see:

Girls Carry out Suicide Bombing; Kill at Least 58 in Nigeria

The aftermath of a previous attack by Boko Haram. (Photo: © Reuters)

The aftermath of a previous attack by Boko Haram. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, Feb. 11, 2016:

At least 58 people were killed and many others injured in a double suicide bombing attack on a refugee camp in Nigeria. The camp is in the northeastern town Dikwa, 53 miles outside the capital of Borno state. It was serving as a temporary home for people fleeing the insurgency of the jihadist group Boko Haram.

Reports vary from 58 killed to more than 70, with dozens more reported injured.

Two female suicide bombers entered the camp and detonated their devices in the middle of it. A third was reportedly arrested before she detonated her bomb, after changing her mind.

“The one they arrested alive, she confessed,” Ahmed Satomi, of the State Management Agency, told Al Jazeera. “She feel [sic] that her parents would come and that’s why she refused to detonate her own bomb.”

She reportedly recognized her parents and siblings in the camp and therefore decided not to blow herself up.

The attack was carried out on February 9 but information was slow to filter out due a breakdown in the telephone system. It was carried out in revenge for a Nigerian military operation against Boko Haram in the village of Boboshe, according to The New York Times.

Boko Haram is trying to establish a sharia state in northeastern Nigeria and pledged allegiance to the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last year.

Also see:

Islam, Sport & Terrorism

2013-Olympic-Rings-Sochi-300x186By Paul Wilkinson:

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will commence in early February. Instead of the usual pleasurable anticipation, the Russian authorities are rightly concerned as to what plans Islamic terrorists have in store. Terrorists from Dagestan in the Caucasus, where Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev intended to join the insurgency, are within striking distance of Sochi to launch an attack, as Rachel Molschky writes here.

Islamists see sport as ‘un-Islamic’ and therefore fair game to push their religious and political agenda by attacking spectators and participants alike. The brutal double Volgograd suicide bombings on consecutive days in late December by Muslims, and then the recent discovery of six men who had been fatally shot and left in cars booby-trapped with bombs in southern Russia, have sent a chilling reminder of the threat that Caucasus Emirate leader, Doku Umarov, made to Moscow last summer concerning the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: “Call off the Games or hundreds of people die.”

There is a ready supply of female suicide bombers, and (as of August 2013), “in the last 12 years, 46 women have turned themselves into suicide bombs in Russia, committing 26 terrorist attacks (some attacks involved multiple women). Most of the bombers were from Chechnya and Dagestan.Anna Nemtsova explains further that these women, known as ‘Black Widows’, typically have life trauma that pushes them into a radical mindset. Some will marry an Islamist who gets killed and becomes a martyr for the cause, but the widows left behind become marginalised by society and their peer group, so begin their own journey to martyrdom.

Sport is seen as a way of bringing different countries, religions and cultures together, and gives pleasure to billions of people. Indeed many Muslims enjoy sport, especially cricket and football, but unsurprisingly, the fundamentalists find conflict because only sports mentioned during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime by Hadith, (for example, archery, swimming, polo, etc.) are ‘permissible’. Only where Islam exists can such a potent mix occur and then pose a danger to sport.

Read more at Cherson and Molschky

Female Suicide Bombers

Mayhem at the site of the Sbarro suicide bombing in 2001. Photo Source: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-friends-account-from-minutes-before-the-sbarros-bombing/

Mayhem at the site of the Sbarro suicide bombing in 2001. Photo Source: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-friends-account-from-minutes-before-the-sbarros-bombing/

By  Rachel Molschky:

It’s no phenomenon. A large number of suicide bombers are women. Though Islamic women have very few rights other than the right to get arrested for adultery after getting raped, the right to receive a beating by their husbands, fathers or brothers, or the right to be murdered in an honor killing for “suspiciously” talking on the phone, becoming “too Westernized,” or getting an education, one right their male counterparts freely grant them is the right to become suicide bombers. Yes, Muslim women are free to blow themselves up along with as many innocent victims as possible.  And they do.

In 2001, The High Islamic Council in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa in order to motivate more women to become suicide bombers. In 2002, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, once the spiritual leader of Hezbollah and responsible for the 1983 Beirut bombing which killed 241 American and 58 French servicemen, gave his blessing not only for suicide bombings in general, but also to the equality of women in this venture. Known to be against honor killings and domestic abuse against women, and therefore applauded for his stance on women’s rights, even in the Western media, his view of women as equals extended to those who contribute to Allah’s cause by blowing themselves up: “It is true that Islam has not asked women to carry out jihad, but it permits them to take part if the necessities dictate that women should carry out regular military operations or suicide operations.” The fact that this man was revered for his support of women just goes to show the media is desperate to find anything to paint Muslims in a good light.

The former Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Yassin, and Egypt’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi were also evidently pioneers in the fight for Muslim women’s rights, as both have encouraged women to commit the heinous act of suicide bombing, and doing whatever they have to do in order to get the job done. That includes not wearing a hijab, not getting their husbands’ permission or having a male escort. It is all ok because it is for Allah.

One motivation is the glory they’ll receive in the afterlife. Murdering innocent people, even children, is celebrated in the Muslim culture if they think it will further Islam. And they become immortalized after streets, schools and other things are named after them. In her book Female Suicide Bombers,author Debra D. Zedalis writes, “there are ‘religious, nationalistic, economic, social and personal rewards’ for suicide bombers… religion offers the moral justification for committing seemingly immoral acts. Nationalistic fanatics court suicide bombers and use rhetoric to stir up feelings of patriotism, hatred of the enemy, and a profound sense of victimization.”

Zedalis goes on to explain the financial rewards given to the families of the bombers and the reason why women are now vital to this form of Muslim terrorism: the enhanced media attention it brings. There seems to be a greater shock value when the perpetrator was female, and more women desire this role of Shahida, a female “martyr.” Killing innocent people is their form of martyrdom.

Read more at Cherson and Molschky

Al-Qaeda’s Female Suicide Bomber Death Cult


Islamist terrorists have long used women as suicide bombers, but now their combatant role has expanded with al-Qaeda’s formation of an all-female jihadist fighting unit whose primary mission is purportedly to attack Coalition targets in Afghanistan.

The discovery of the all-girl military group, dubbed the “Burkha Brigade,” came to light in a recent online video that showed a bevy of fully covered women firing off a wide selection of heavy weaponry, including machine guns, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades.

The women enlistees are thought to have been recruited from Chechnya, the semi-autonomous republic in the Russian Federation and a state which has long provided fertile ground for producing female jihadists.

That disturbing history was most notably on display in 2002 when bomb-strapped Chechen women were among 50 Islamist militants who held over 800 people hostage in Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. In that assault nearly 130 civilians were killed.

While Muslim women, dressed as males, have in the past fought alongside Islamist militants, the creation of an all-female fighting force adds a new twist in the escalating use of women combatants by al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist terror groups in the region.

Yet, while the overall use and effectiveness of the all-girl fighting brigade remains unclear, it is likely that its formation will not eclipse the feminine combative role most favored by Islamist terrorists: suicide bomber.

That terrifying function is, unfortunately, ideally suited for women given Islamic restrictions against searching females. Those taboos often allow Muslim women to hide explosive-laden suicide vests underneath their burqas and pass undetected through security checkpoints.

It should be noted that while women are highly valued by jihadists as human projectiles, children and the mentally impaired used in that same capacity are equally prized by Islamist terrorists.

The Taliban, in particular, has a predilection for utilizing youthful suicide bombers given that nearly ninety percent of the estimated 5,000 suicide bombers trained in Pakistan are under the age of 16. As Pakistani Taliban commander Qari Hussain once explained, “Children are tools to achieve God’s will, whatever comes your way you sacrifice it.”

However, not to be outdone, al-Qaeda has shown an appreciation for utilizing the mentally impaired for its suicide operations. Al-Qaeda in Iraq energetically used this tactic when it employed mentally handicapped women, many with Down Syndrome, to carry out suicide attacks against American and Coalition forces during the Iraq war.

Nevertheless, the use of women as human explosives has gained growing admiration among Jihadist circles. This admiration has been evidenced since 2010 by the growing swell of al-Qaeda and Taliban-run suicide training camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border designed to specially train female bombers.

Read more at Front Page