ISIS using female jihadists for frontline combat, Europol chief warns

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As the number of European women joining terror group Islamic State soars, many of them are being trained to fight on the frontlines for the first time, the European police chief has warned.

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference, Europol director Rob Wainwright lent credence to reports by former Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters that women were being promoted from wifely duties to active combat roles.

“For the first time we are seeing reports of them being trained for battlefield experience,” he said.

“There are reports of different motives, some are going to engage in combat, some to be brides. It’s not one-dimensional.”

Last week a Tunisian recruit told the Times that hundreds of women were fighting with IS in Libya. The women reportedly receive three weeks of weapons instruction and many are trained to become suicide bombers.

Until now it was believed that the thousands of women who have joined IS since its rise were being used as ‘jihadist brides’ for the male fighters, without ever taking part in attacks.

Wainwright, who has led Europol since 2009, said that in the past seven years some 5,300 Europeans had traveled to Iraq and Syria and that women now account for about a third of that number.

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“There is an increasing number of women who have been radicalized,” he said.

The police chief warned that the threat to Europe and the UK is becoming “more aggressive” as a “sizable number of potential terrorists” have returned to Europe from Syria and Iraq.

"Some are in rehabilitation programs, some find themselves in prison. But that still leaves a very sizable number of potential terrorists in Europe.

"It leaves us with a serious terrorism threat, I think [it] is the most serious that the continent has faced since the days of 9/11,” he said.