Wives of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria are fleeing abroad with their children intent on maintaining fealty to the group, intelligence officials tell The Washington Post.
The ISIS wives pose a particularly challenging threat to international law enforcement agencies, which have focused much of their activities on monitoring and preventing attacks by returning foreign fighters. Many of the wives and children may not have fought for the terrorist group but remain fully indoctrinated with its ideology.
“It was — and still is — our duty to have children and bring them up the right way,” a returned ISIS bride to Morocco declared to WaPo. “We thought that even if they would try to destroy the caliphate, it will live on,” she said, “as long as we spread the idea of the Islamic State.”
“Women who have joined IS must be assumed to have known what they were doing, and be treated accordingly. At the very least, some of the 600+ members of the all-female Al Khansaa unit in Raqqa claimed to have taken part in torture and to have enjoyed doing so,” U.S.-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Center noted in a recent report on returned fighters.
A 2017 Heritage Foundation report similarly found that the ratio of of overall terrorist plots involving women are on the rise in Europe saying, “the ratio of overall plots per year containing females was 13 percent in 2014; 5 percent in 2015; 22 percent in 2016; and currently 23 percent in 2017.”
The Soufan Center totaled the number of women and children thought to have been in the caliphate to exceed 10,000. Estimates do not currently exist for the number of returned women and children but thousands of male fighters are thought to have come back, with hundreds to the West. These include nearly half of departed fighters from the U.K., nearly 300 to France, more than 100 in Belgium, and dozens others across Western Europe.
The U.S. Department of State similarly estimated in late July that nearly 30 percent of European foreign fighters for ISIS have returned to the continent. Experts fear that some of the returning foreign fighters will pursue domestic terror plots in their home countries, or even use their passports to travel elsewhere in the West.
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