A smile across his face, a young British child in Syria poses for the camera as he struggles to cradle an AK-47 assault rifle.
Named Isa — the Arabic version of Jesus — the boy, who appears no older than three or four, is the son of a former London student who is among a growing number of British women travelling to Syria to live under the Islamic “caliphate” set up by the world’s most feared terrorist leader.
The boy has a younger brother, aged about 12 months, whom his mother refers to as a “mini mujahid”, or holy warrior.
An analysis of their postings on social media reveals:
- Chilling threats against Britain, including a call for more murders like that of the soldier Lee Rigby
- Girls as young as 15 being encouraged to join the jihad
- Female recruits to ISIS being paid a monthly wage and offered free housing if they marry a foreign fighter
One young woman, who is thought to come from Scotland, provides an insight into life as an Isis bride in an online diary. Despite her zeal for a regime that crucifies and beheads its opponents, she admits she misses her mother and pines for a taste of Irn Bru.
Last month it emerged that Salma and Zahra Halane, 16-year-old twin sisters from Manchester, had abandoned their studies and headed to Syria. Messages on social media suggest they are with other British women in Manbij, an ISIS-controlled town in the north of the country.
Dozens of women from Europe are believed to have travelled to the region and a number are now raising children there. One ISIS video has featured the purported blond offspring of a French jihadist couple.
Isa’s mother, who calls herself simply Umm Isa (Mother of Isa), has the image of her gun-toting son on her Twitter profile page. Her account is called Muhajirah fi Sham, which means “immigrant in Syria”.
It reveals she is married to a fighter from Sweden called Abu Bakr and their younger son is called Abdur Rahman.
The couple were featured in a Channel 4 News clip last year, although on that occasion Umm Isa gave her name as Maryam — the Arabic for Mary. Friends have identified her as a convert to Islam who attended a mosque in south London.
In last year’s clip, she was shown firing an AK-47 and a revolver while wearing a burqa in Syria. She said she had studied media, film, psychology and sociology in Britain. At the time, her husband was attached to a foreign fighters’ brigade, part of which later merged with ISIS. It is unclear when Umm Isa travelled to Syria and whether her older son was born there. She has said she has no plans to return.
On Twitter, Umm Isa has retweeted a photograph of an ISIS crucifixion and boasted about witnessing a public execution in Manbij.
In one post she complains: “Wer r all da sisters dat want 2 join us in Sham nd marry nd support a mujahid? Wer r all da brothers dat r spose 2 b on da front line?”
Wer r all da sisters dat want 2 join us in Shaam nd marry nd support a mujahid? Wer r all da brothers dat r spose 2 b on da frontline?
— muhajirah fi Sham (@Ash_Shamiyyah) June 28, 2014
Her neighbour, another British woman who uses the alias Umm Khattab al-Britaniyya, has also posted the photograph of Isa carrying a rifle, adding: “Look at my little mujahid, this kid is the funniest man, love him.”
Uk government are funny im not returning to ur dirty society which has no moral values y’all r all uncivilised and need islam to liberate u
— Al Britaniyya (@UmmKhattab__) July 4, 2014
If I could I would probably put all the yahuds back into gas chambers they are nothing but parasites
— Al Britaniyya (@UmmKhattab__) July 19, 2014
Umm Khattab started a Twitter account on June 27 — the day after the Halane twins went missing from their home in Manchester. She wrote: “I don’t think it’s still hit me that I’m in Sham.”
In a more recent tweet, the Briton cryptically said: “Missing twins — chilling with one of them now, lool.”
A later post on the same day was more sinister: “The black flag is not only limited to iraq and sham, insha’Allah [God willing] it shall fly over 10 downing st.”
She has pledged her loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, whom she refers to as “my beloved amir [commander]”.
Umm Khattab also offers advice on Ask.fm, the controversial website used by teenagers. On Friday, she indicated that one of the Manchester twins “is my neighbour” and claimed that she had met “many British girls” since arriving in Syria.
When asked by a 15-year-old girl for help in joining the jihad, Umm Khattab replied: “I don’t think it’s young as long as you have common sense and a passport.”
A third British woman with ISIS, who uses the alias Umm Layth, has used Twitter to advocate terrorist attacks against the UK and America.
The woman, who travelled to Syria last November and got married shortly afterwards, appears to be from Scotland and in her early twenties.
In a reference to the killers of Rigby in Woolwich, southeast London, the Boston marathon bombers and the perpetrator of a massacre at the Fort Hood US army base in Texas, Umm Layth recently wrote: “Follow the examples of your brothers from Woolwich, Texas and Boston.” She added: “If you cannot make it to the battlefield then bring the battlefield to yourself.”
Follow the example of your Brothers from Woolwich, Texas and Boston etc. Have no fear as Allah swt is always with the Believers.
— ام ليث (@UmmLayth_) June 27, 2014
Umm Layth has also posted a diary on Tumblr, making it clear that western women who join the jihad will not be allowed to fight and those who are single when they arrive in Syria will be expected to get married swiftly. All women receive a monthly income, she reveals, while couples are given a house by ISIS.
She writes: “[There are] no martydom operations or a secret sisters’ katiba [brigade]. These are all rumours.
“Your day will revolve around cooking, cleaning, looking after and sometimes even educating children . . . We are created to be mothers and wives.”
Despite her stern advice, Umm Layth joked on Twitter: “Anyone making hijrah [emigrating] from Scotland . . . bring me some Irn Bru:D”
Anyone making Hijrah from Scotland any time soon… bring me some Irn-Bru 😀
— ام ليث (@UmmLayth_) June 25, 2014