From Canada to the Islamic State: A Canadian Woman On The Frontlines With ISIS

Increasing Numbers of Females

Last week the Toronto Sun reported on two women from Montreal who apparently left to join Daesh (ISIS) in November. While these are not the first Canadians who have travelled for this purpose, this definitely points to an emerging trend in that the individuals were female. What draws women to join one of the most notorious terrorist organizations on the face of the planet? Perhaps we think that women (in some cases teenage women) are less susceptible to recruitment or radicalization. Realistically, though, that simply isn’t the case and Canadian women are, more and more, coming up on the radar as engaging with and travelling to support ISIS.

For More on Female Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

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Tracking a Canadian Woman's Involvement with ISIS

Tracking a Canadian Woman’s Involvement with ISIS

Case in point, iBRABO began monitoring a female, whom we'll call L.A., shortly after publishing our story on the New Zealand jihadist, Mark Taylor. Based on his tweets about his experiences in the “Islamic State,” we were able to track him through Syria through his twitter geo-location. One of the benefits of tracking terrorists through geocoded tweets is they are like a virtual trail of breadcrumbs. While surveilling ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, our analysts observed another social media account of a Western ISIS supporter that concerned us.   In this case, the twitter trail that we were able to follow led us directly back to a female account in Toronto. L.A. had been actively moving about throughout Toronto and broadcasting her location up until the 23rd of November 2014. At that point she disappears and isn’t seen again until her Android phone starts broadcasting on the 8th of December from Ar Raqqah, Syria (below). Ar Raqqah is one of the major stronghold cities for ISIS and for that reason is intensely monitored by several organizations.

The Path to Engagement with Violent Extremism

So how is it that a Canadian woman ends up in the heart of what ISIS calls the “Islamic State”? Some of the answers for this lie in her Twitter page (vetted below).

Twitter Profile of Female Canadian ISIS Supporter

Twitter Profile of Female Canadian ISIS Supporter L.A. in Syria

L.A.’s Twitter background image is a picture of an ISIS beheading from  al-Furqan Media Foundation from the Video Althought the Unbelievers Dislike It. To see the full video refer to the conclusion. The image was identified through the Al-Furqan media icon in the upper left corner of the image (below).

For More on Detailed Analysis of Islamic State (ISIS) Video: Although the Unbelievers Dislike It - A Story of Expansion and Beheadings

Al-Furqan Media Foundaion - iBRABO

Image: Al-Furqan Media Foundation logo.

 

Retweeting Propaganda as Predecessor to Recruitment

While viewing propaganda imagery in and of itself doesn’t mean a person has radicalized (we have watched more than our fair share), we have found that individuals who then go on to rebroadcast or adopt those images as their own in social media are posting a potential red flag. Another predictor relates to peer influence, and in that regard social media has changed the traditional need for direct peer interaction. Looking at the peer network L.A. has built on her twitter account, there are several dozen ISIS fighters and supporters she follows and engages with. This past week several of those members were suspended in a mass cull by Twitter, who was looking to eliminate some of the thousands of ISIS accounts on its platform.

L.A. makes numerous references to her support for ISIS in her twitter feed stating, “God bless those who live on His path and who die on His path”. As well as defending ISIS against arguments by others that they are Khawarij (a derogatory name many in the Arabic world now use for the group)

The First Documented Case of a Female on the Frontlines with ISIS

Geo-Locating L.A.'s Activities since arrival

Perhaps the most damning evidence of her involvement with ISIS are her activities once she arrives in Syria. Unlike the typical “domestic” role that is described in Institute for Strategic Dialog’s recent article “Becoming Mulan”L.A. appears to take a very active role with ISIS. Examining her Twitter geo-location track L.A. has travelled on numerous occasions to virtually every major city that ISIS controls. To put this in perspective, L.A. has travelled across more ISIS controlled territory than any other ISIS account we have monitored. Some of these travels include Ar Raqqah, Dier ez Zur, Mosul, Aleppo and the embattled town of Kobane (lead photo). On the 25th of December 2014,  L.A. travelled to the frontline in Kobane when ISIS was starting to take on major losses inflicted by both coaltion strikes and the fight with the Kurdish YPG. Typically, ISIS takes the position that it does not allow women to be involved in fighting. It is possible that with the severe loses ISIS was experiencing they needed the ability to gather intelligence using women, and thus allowed L.A. to penetrate into Kobane (below). While on the frontline in Kobane she comments on her interaction with the fighters, “I did not see in their actions, anything but the utmost of respect for me as a sister.”

 

L.A. in Kobane December 25

Image: Geomapping L.A. in Kobane, Syria December 25, 2014

L.A. then travels to the ISIS controlled city of Mosul in Iraq on the 9th of January 2015 before continuing on to Aleppo where she stayed from January 11-16 (Below). While in Aleppo she spends all of her time in territory controlled by ISIS’s enemies including: Regime opposition and YPG controlled areas. Given her previous trip to Mosul and her attendance directly in Aleppo, a reasonable inference would be that L.A. may have again been facilitating surveillance for ISIS during her time in Aleppo. Previous reports have discussed the use of the al-Khansa Brigade, “an ISIS unit – predominantly foreign – of women who handle security and intelligence in Raqqah“. This unit is also trained on and regularly carries AK-47’s. ISIS has had its eye on Aleppo since its push into Syria and the timing of L.A.’s visit would be consistent with reports of ISIS’s advances on the city and attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra (JN).

For More on Al-Khansaa Brigade

 L.A. in Aleppo Syria Jan 11th - 16th  (Battlefront map from PDC LLC)

Image: Geo-mapping L.A. in Aleppo, Syria January 11th – 16th (Battlefront map from PDC LLC)

 
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About the Contributor

Jeff R. Weyers

Jeff R. Weyers is a Ph.D. candidate in the Tactical Decision Making Research Unit at the University of Liverpool. Jeff is a decorated police officer with 14 years policing experience. He is a...

Mubin Shaikh

Mubin Shaikh is a former undercover counter terrorism operative with both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Integrated National Security Enforcement...