LEZIGNAN-CORBIERES, France — On the day she left for Syria, Sahra strode along the train platform with two bulky schoolbags slung over her shoulder. In a grainy image caught on security camera, the French teen tucks her hair into a headscarf.
Just two months earlier and a two-hour drive away, Nora, also a teen girl, had embarked on a similar journey in similar clothes. Her brother later learned she’d been leaving the house every day in jeans and a pullover, then changing into a full-body veil.
Neither had ever set foot on an airplane. Yet both journeys were planned with the precision of a seasoned traveller and expert in deception, from Sahra’s ticket for the March 11 Marseille-Istanbul flight to Nora’s secret Facebook account and overnight crash pad in Paris.
Sahra and Nora are among some 100 girls and young women from France who have left to join jihad in Syria, up from just a handful 18 months ago, when the trip was not even on Europe’s security radar, officials say. They come from all walks of life — first- and second-generation immigrants from Muslim countries, white French backgrounds, even a Jewish girl, according to a security official who spoke anonymously because rules forbid him to discuss open investigations…
(Photo: Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France, Oct. 2, 2014. Credit: AP / Fred Scheiber)