Extremists in Britain acting as Islamic State intermediaries and recruiters are offering teenagers cash to lure them to Syria to join the militant group and marry its fighters, a Times investigation reveals.
Two undercover reporters working for the British newspaper posed online and in text messages as a teenage girl seeking contact with Islamic State militants.
The paper said the journalists were “inundated with approaches and exposed to the full force of extremist propaganda before making contact via Twitter with a hardline jihadist calling himself Abu Abbas al-Lubnani.”
They found that a UK terror cell linked to Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) was prepare to offer cash to girls as young as 17 to become jihadist brides, marrying fighters in Syria.
The paper also discovered ISIS oil and ransom money is being funneled in small sums through Western Union to pay for the girls’ travel.
So-called “facilitators” based in London help the teenagers get hold of passports and guide them to the terrorist group’s strongholds in Syria.
Britain has ramped up its surveillance of people likely to travel to the region, yet many slip through to Syria and Iraq to become jihadist brides.
One route involves a flight from Luton Airport to Dortmund in Germany. From there, the would-be brides travel to Istanbul, where they then cross the border into Syria.
ISIS is using social networks as recruitment tools. A Number 10 spokesman told The Times: “This underlines the real and serious risk of young people here in Britain being radicalized by terrorists in Syria. And it highlights why government, the security agencies, police and online companies all need to join forces against this common threat and do all we can to protect our children.
“We have already shown through our cooperation to tackle online child exploitation that we can do better at preventing access to harmful material online.
“Now we need to take action when it comes to getting extremist material down from the internet. We are making progress with the internet providers but there is clearly more to do.”
Charlie Winter, a researcher with the anti-extremism foundation Quilliam, said: “I have only heard rumors that westerners are actually having their travel funded by Islamic State,” he told The Times. “We also know that it is immensely wealthy. Hence, it would make strategic sense that money would change hands. However, whether it is logistically sound or not is another issue.”
Among the young women known to have left the UK to join ISIS are privately-educated 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood from Glasgow, and Khadijah Dare, who is married to an ISIS fighter.
Earlier this month British police took a 15-year-old girl off a plane taxiing at Heathrow as she was heading for Istanbul to join ISIS in Syria.
In September, it was revealed ISIS lured American women to Syria to have children with militants in return for money. According to the report conducted by The Times, at least three girls from Somali families in the US state Minneapolis recently went missing. They are believed to have been offered money for each child born along with other benefits.
The family of a 19-year-old girl, also from Minneapolis, said their daughter had travelled to Syria with a passport reportedly arranged by terror recruiters.
Instead of the life they have been promised – as fighters alongside ISIS militants – many foreign recruits end up as cooks or maids.