Guardian News and Media/London
A British woman who travelled to Syria with her young child has been convicted of being a member of Islamic State (IS) and encouraging acts of terror on social media.
Tareena Shakil, 26, travelled to Syria via Turkey after telling friends and family she was off on a beach holiday.
She spent more than two months living in a mansion with women of various nationalities waiting to be matched up with men and, while there, sent messages and pictures glorifying IS including ones of her posing with an AK-47 assault rifle.
From the witness box at Birmingham crown court, Shakil gave an extraordinary account of her time in Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS, and described how she managed to escape after becoming disillusioned and frightened.
Shakil, from Birmingham, claimed she had been groomed by IS recruiters, who targeted her when she was low because of the break-up of her marriage in the UK.
She insisted her every move was monitored by IS minders and she had no choice but to send messages and pictures that were supportive of IS.
The trial was told that Shakil was one of about 60 British women who are believed to have left to join IS in Syria. They were said to have been among about 600 women from Europe, North America and Australia in Syria.
After the jury returned its verdict, West Midlands police said they believed she presented a real threat to the UK.
Assistant chief constable Marcus Beale, who leads on counter-terrorism, said: “Our assessment is that she was not naive; she had absolutely clear intentions when she left the UK, sending tweets encouraging the public to commit acts of terrorism here and then taking her young child to join Daesh (IS) in Syria.”
Photographs seized from her phone showed Shakil posing with a firearm and wearing a Daesh balaclava. Another showed a rucksack with a Daesh logo and person holding a handgun. These were taken while she was in Syria.
“Shakil had already incited others to commit terrorist acts on social media and, having spent months living under Daesh, she no doubt presented a real threat on her return to the UK from the country early last year.
“Thanks to proactive counter-terrorism policing, we were able to intercept Shakil at the airport and put the necessary measures in place to protect her child from the mother’s ideology.
“Early intervention is key for the police and other agencies. So if anyone is concerned that a friend or family member is thinking of travelling to Syria it is crucial they tell us as soon as possible. The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have of preventing young people from becoming embroiled in the conflict and facing potential prosecution.”
It took the jury of six men and six women nine hours and 35 minutes to reach their unanimous decision.
Judge Melbourne Inman QC told Shakil she would be sentenced today.
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