Are Women Helping to Expand the ISIS Caliphate in Libya?

Women loyal to ISIS, dressed from head to toe in loose black clothing, hold guns.

"English-speaking female jihadis have been using social media to try to lure western Muslims to join them with Islamic State in Libya, a new front in the war on terror just 400 miles from Europe’s shores.

Three native English-speaking women have been monitored for months by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a UK-based think tank, and are believed to be British. They say they have been living in the war torn north African country since at least the start of the summer."

Two women pose, dressed in black and holding guns. Only their eyes are showing. They are committed to the cause of ISIS.

"Using a variety of social media platforms, including Twitter and encrypted messaging apps such as Surespot and Telegram, the three have reached out to their hundreds of followers, and as routes into Syria via its 500-mile border with Turkey have become further restricted they have advertised the journey to Libya as the easiest way of joining ISIS’s so-called caliphate.

ISIS has been in Libya for just over a year and the country is home to its largest forces outside of the Middle East. The group has its headquarters in the northern coastal town of Sirte, birthplace of Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but also has a training base to the west of the capital, Tripoli.

Melanie Smith, ISD researcher and an expert in western female jihadis, said evidence of women travelling to Libya to start a new life under ISIS represented a dangerous tipping point.

Where we see movements of women migrating, that represents the organisation [ISIS] trying to consolidate their territory and state-build rather than just fight and conquer territory. [And] the more that you consolidate that territory, the more you populate that territory, the more difficult it is for that to change,” she said." 

 A small group of women sit in a circle in a park. They are dressed in black, with only their hands exposed.

"Smith said the trend of looking to Libya as a new area for extremists was growing. “They [jihadis] speak about Libya as the new frontier and as an extension of the caliphate. And it appears that the game plan [for a terrorist attack] would be to go through Libya and up into Europe. So the proximity of Libya being on the tip of north Africa is geographically quite worrying.” 

Three women in ISIS' caliphate. They are so thoroughly covered in black fabric that you can't even see their eyes. They see through slits in cloth.

"ISIS has grown because Libya’s elected government is battling an Islamist-led force, Libya Dawn, which last year captured Tripoli, plunging the country into civil war. Sirte lies along the fault line between the recognised government’s forces in the east and Libya Dawn units in the west, both of which have fought sporadic clashes with ISIS.

Reports from Libya indicate that foreign volunteers are flocking to ISIS from Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa. There is also evidence that many British volunteers for ISIS move to Syria via Tunisia and Libya where they receive training before going on to Turkey to transit to Syria. The route makes them harder to detect among the hundreds of thousands of British tourists who flock to Tunisia. However, this is the first evidence that Brits are choosing to settle in Libya itself.

Full article written by Shiv Malik and Chris Stephen can be found at

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Are Women Helping to Expand the ISIS Caliphate in Libya?
Are Women Helping to Expand the ISIS Caliphate in Libya?
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