British female jihadis are operating a religious police force that punishes women for 'un-Islamic' behaviour, it was claimed today.
The al-Khanssaa brigade is a female-only militia set up by the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, with a key figure believed to be Aqsa Mahmoud, 20, of Glasgow, who fled to the country last year.
Academics at King's College London have identified three other British females as members of the group - and say there are about 60 UK women who have gone to Syria on jihad.
Most of these women - including privately-educated Mahmood - are aged between 18 and 24, with al-Khanssaa said to be seeking out people engaging in Western culture in Raqqa.
It is believed that U.S. hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff were both beheaded in the desert near Raqqa - and therefore the British women in al-Khanssaa could know who killed them.
Melanie Smith, a research associate at King's College's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, told journalists Robert Mendick and Robert Verkaik of The Sunday Telegraph: ‘Al-Khanssaa is a sharia law police brigade. This is Isil’s female law enforcement.
'We think it’s a mixture of British and French women but its social media accounts are run by the British and they are written in English.
‘Given how small the community networks are - we know there are about 500 male British jihadis out there - it is quite likely these women move in the same circles as the British killer of Foley and Sotloff.’
Confusion reigns over the identity of the Islamic State executioner known as 'Jihadi John' after security experts last week appeared to dismiss suggestions he was a former rapper from London.
Zahra Halane has been on the Islamic State frontline in Syria, it was claimed today.
The 16-year-old jihadi girl posted a photograph on Twitter of a fighter holding a Koran, with the caption: 'May Allah grant us victory Ameen.'
A man can also be seen (above) lying down with an assault rifle, reported Dean Wilkins in The Sun on Sunday. Zahra is said to have taken the picture while with militants in Raqqa.
She has also posted a photo of a rifle and a Koran. Zahra left her family home in Chorlton, Manchester, with sister Salma in June.
The masked man, who speaks with a clear London accent, was originally thought to be ‘hip hop jihadist’ Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, but it is now understood to be another man.
British women are reportedly being given major roles within al-Khanssaa because Islamic State chiefs see them as the most committed of the foreign female jihadis.
The Daily Mail reported yesterday how a growing band of young women have left their families in Britain to join the jihadi cause in Syria.
Many have formed ‘intense friendships’ in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. Academics at King’s College said they have seen ‘a big uptake’ in the number of UK women going to Syria.
Among them are Salma and Zahra Halane, 16, twins from Manchester, and mother Khadijah Dare, 22, who is married to a Swedish jihadist.
Another is Muslim convert Sally Jones, 45, from Chatham, Kent, an unemployed mother who has ranted online about how she wants to behead Christians with a ‘blunt knife’.
By Mark Duell
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.