The Islamic State brides: where are they now?
At the height of the Syrian civil war there were regular reports of women travelling from the west to join the fledgling Islamic State (IS).
Often young women or girls who had been indoctrinated online by savvy and well-funded recruiters, they fled their daily lives to go to Syria and marry jihadists.
Some fought; some were involved in IS' morality police where they enforced sharia law on the streets; some took their skills from home and put them to use in their new "state"; most did domestic duties and ended up being passed from fighter to fighter as wives. Most importantly of all, they played a major role in promoting the so-called caliphate abroad.
The IS caliphate fell in 2019, so where are they all now?
Many have ended up as detainees in camps in Syria and Iraq. A few are said to have been repatriated, while some have escaped or been smuggled out of the camps.
This week The Telegraph published new pictures of Shamima Begum at al Roj camp in western clothing, just weeks after losing her legal bid to return to the UK to appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.
Some of the best-known IS brides, such as their poster girl Sally Jones, were killed during fighting. The location of many others is completely unknown.
“The Bethnal Green School Girls”
Shamima Begum is thought to be the only one of the Bethnal Green trio of schoolgirls to still be alive after they travelled from their east London homes to Syria in 2015.
Kadiza Sultana, who was 16 when she left the UK, is thought to have died in an airstrike in Raqqa in 2016. According to Ms Begum she had married an American IS fighter before her house in Raqqa was bombed.
"At first I was in denial. I thought if we died, we'd die together," she told Sky News.
Sultana’s family told ITV that she had become disillusioned with life in Raqqa and was trying to leave before she was killed.
The fate of the third, Amira Abase, remains unknown.
Like Ms Begum, she was 15 when they boarded a Turkish airlines flight from Gatwick to Istanbul before crossing the border into Syria.
Ms Abase married the Australian “Ginger Jihadi” in 2016. Ms Begum said in February 2019 that she had heard Ms Abase was alive in what was then IS’ last stronghold in Syria, Baghouz.
It is not clear if she was killed in the fight to clear Baghouz or if she is laying low in one the sprawling camps of jihadists controlled by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
“The Terror Twins”
The fate of twins Salma and Zahra Halane was unknown after IS lost Baghouz, the last of its territory, fighting against Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in March 2019.
In August 2020, however, The Telegraph confirmed Zahra’s presence at the infamous Al Hol camp when she was caught trying to escape.
The Denmark-born twins - who are reportedly still committed IS supporters - left their childhood home in Manchester in 2014 aged 16 and documented life in the caliphate over Twitter, encouraging other Westerners to join.
Aine Davis, one of the four Britons known as the Beatles who were involved in torturing and executing western hostages, was a visitor to Salma’s house, the Sunday Times reported in 2017.
The whereabouts of Salma is unknown but she is thought to be alive, while her sister has now been transferred to a high security extension of Roj camp. Humanitarians worry that the most dangerous IS supporters are being moved there.
“I don’t know where the other one might be honestly but they left together,” a woman who had successfully escaped Al Hol told The Telegraph at the time, referring to Salma and their escape attempt.
The government is believed to have revoked the twins’ residency and subjected them to an exclusion order, meaning they would be unable to re-enter the UK.
The only message ever sent from Shamima Begum’s Twitter account was to Asqa Mahmood, a Glaswegian former medical student who had reportedly become a prominent figure in IS’ al-Khansaa brigade - an all-female sharia police unit.
“Follow me so I can dm you back," Ms Begum wrote. A few days later the Bethnal Green trio left London for Syria, thought to have been indoctrinated by the all-female religious unit.
Ms Mahmood was one of the first British women to join IS’ so-called caliphate, leaving the UK in November 2013, aged 19. She used social media extensively to promote life under IS, call for terror attacks against the UK and urge British Muslims to join her.
Her whereabouts are unknown.
Her family’s lawyer said in February 2019 that the family “would rather see their daughter behind bars in Scotland than dead on a battlefield.”
In the summer of 2017, Ms Mahmood was reported to have been one of 150 suspected jihadists stripped of their citizenship and banned from returning to the UK.
Two years before, the UN security council placed Ms Mahmood under sanctions, subjecting her to a travel ban and a global assets freeze in an attempt to stop her radicalising more people.
Daniela Greene was an FBI agent with top-secret national security clearance who went rogue and married an IS fighter that she was supposed to investigate.
After serving two years in US prison, she is now a free woman - in 2017 CNN reported that she worked as a waitress in a hotel lounge.
Greene, 38, had been assigned to investigate Denis Cuspert, a German rapper who went by the name “Deso Dogg” who had become a key IS operative and recruiter.
According to federal court records, she warned Mr Cuspert he was under investigation before travelling to Syria to marry him in 2014.
In one propaganda video that her husband featured in he was holding a “freshly severed human head”, according to a CNN investigation.
After a few weeks, Greene fled back to the US, seemingly realising she had made a mistake.
She was sentenced to two years in federal prison and was released in 2016, prompting accusations that she was treated favourably by the Justice Department in exchange for cooperation. The details of her sentencing remain secret.
"Not sure if they told you that I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life. I wish I could turn back time some days," the records show her as writing in an email to an unidentified recipient while in Syria.
Linda Wenzel, “the belle of Mosul”
The German teenager who ran away aged 15 after striking up a relationship with a jihadist online is now halfway through a six-year prison sentence in a Baghdad juvenile prison after she was captured by Iraqi forces during the Battle of Mosul.
She had stolen her mother’s credit card to book herself a flight to Istanbul, where it is believed she met up with IS members who took her to Raqqa in Syria.
Like Ms Mahmood, she is also believed to have been part of the al-Khansaa brigade, according to German media reports.
At the time of her arrest, Wenzel was reported to be an IS sniper. Iraqi soldiers told the Sunday Times that she was manning a weapon from a hideout where civilians were sheltering and that sniper fire from that area stopped after her arrest.
Wenzel denies taking up arms for IS, claiming that she mostly performed domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning for her fighter husband, who was killed five months after they got married.
She was too young to be handed the death sentence for joining the terrorist organisation and as Iraq has no extradition treaty with Germany, she was imprisoned locally with a five-year sentence for joining IS and an extra year for entering Iraq illegally.
Reema and Zara Iqbal
The sisters from Canning Town, who between them have five sons under the age of 10, are believed to be living in separate Syrian camps. Both were widowed after their husbands died while fighting for IS.
Legal sources told the Sunday Times in 2019 that the sisters have had their citizenship removed after they married into a terror cell linked to the execution of western hostages.
The sisters last spoke publicly in 2019 when then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was working on a way for British children to be removed from the camps - which human rights groups have referred to as Europe’s “Guantanamo”.
The women’s parents are originally from Pakistan, meaning the Home Office could suggest they are Pakistani nationals. At least one of their children was born in the UK.
"The security services came to speak to me and I was honest, I told them my whole story so now it’s up to them to judge. I don’t know if my Mum ever got me a Pakistani passport or not, I’ve never been to Pakistan,” Reema Iqbal told The Telegraph in 2019.
"There’s not enough food for bigger families. It’s a prison here, but we’re serving no sentence. If I face court, fine, but take me back to the UK, that’s where I’m from.”