‘Jihadi bride’ arrested at Heathrow with two-year-old son
European authorities fear influx of Isis women and their children
A British-born suspected “jihadi bride” who gave birth in Islamic State-controlled Syrian territory was arrested after returning to the UK with her toddler son earlier this month, it has emerged.
The 27-year-old British woman was released on bail following her arrest at Heathrow Airport under terrorism laws. Her two-year-old son has been taken into care in what The Sunday Times describes as the “first known case of its kind” - but authorities across Europe are reportedly preparing for an inpouring of further Isis brides and their children.
“Female immigrants to the Islamic State have been fleeing the caliphate by the hundreds,” The Washington Post reported in November. “From North Africa to Western Europe, the new arrivals are presenting an unexpected challenge to law enforcement officials, who were bracing for an influx of male returnees but instead have found themselves deciding the fate of scores of women and children.”
The Times says that more than 100 British women are thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist groups. According to report last May by The Daily Telegraph, citing counterterrorism sources and a former jihadi bride, up to ten British women and their children left the extremists’ so-called caliphate in the first few months of 2017, and a couple had “already made it back to the UK”.
UK social services are drawing up plans to tackle a potential influx of Isis families returning from Syria and Iraq following the collapse of the terrorist group last year. In one case, Aqsa Mahmood, 22, a suspected Isis recruiter from Glasgow, was stripped of her UK citizenship to prevent her return, The Times says. A similiar order was made against a British mother-of-two who left Syria with her two children in 2016: they are now stranded in Turkey.
British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested that British defectors to Isis should be “hunted and killed”, although his comments were met with disapproval from a number of MPs.
Deutsche Welle (DW) says German authorities are also grappling with the best way to deal with jihadi brides following the case of a 16-year-old runaway schoolgirl who defected to Iraq to marry an Isis fighter. She was arrest by Iraqi security forces and faces the death penalty if convicted.
“Under Iraqi law, she could be sentenced to death for being a member of a terrorist organisation,” DW says. If she were repatriated to Germany for trial, she would probably face a sentence of between one and ten years under terrorism laws.