The Islamic State is increasingly urging women to fight in its battles, in a significant ideological move that highlights the group’s desperate bid to boost its manpower.
Women had not previously participated in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s armed struggle, with the single exception of an all-female brigade responsible for policing females in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
However, with the jihadists losing large numbers of militants in the fight for Raqqa and Mosul in Iraq they have begun to adjust its narrative to appeal to an untapped resource – female fighters.
Its dwindling pool of male fighters is leading the group to seek out women for the frontline, according to analysis by IHS Markit, a UK-based defence consultancy.
The first approved use of women in battle was thought to have been at the end of the Mosul offensive, where Isil put up a fierce defence for what had been the largest and most strategic territory under its control.
One captured jihadi bride, German teenager Linda Wenzel, was believed to have been trained as a sniper to target Iraqi troops. Officials told the Telegraph they arrested at least a dozen more foreign women they believed had been ordered to attack them.
In the final days of the operation more than 40 are believed to have carried out suicide attacks against the army in Mosul’s Old City, some even killing their children in the process.
Isil realised the value in sending women as they were very rarely checked for explosives, due to Iraq’s socially conservative culture.
“Despite Islamic State’s claims to the contrary, urging women to seek an active role in combat is most likely an attempt to reduce the impact of severe manpower shortages caused by the decimation of male fighters, and a recruitment crisis,” said Ludovico Carlino, a senior analyst at IHS Markit.
“It is as yet unclear whether the spike in female suicide bombings is simply a result of the final pockets of Isil resistance or women compelled by the group to execute those attacks, or whether it represents the beginning of a wider trend of female fighters willing to take part in the group’s battles.”
Meanwhile the latest edition of Rumiyah, Isil’s online…