British widow of deceased leader of ISIS campaign wants to run ISIS’s hackers
According to U.S. officials, a navel-baring British punk rocker turned Islamic State widow is now targeting for a leadership role in the terror group’s cadre of hackers and online recruiters.
If Sally Ann Jones, 45, goes on to succeed, then she would become ISIS’s most public European national to threaten the United States and UK’s networks openly. She would also probably become the most powerful woman in ISIS changing her into a key operational figure.
A U.S. military official told The Daily Beast that “She appears to have picked up the flag of her late husband and is actively working to incite attacks and recruit new members.”
However, some of the observers from the West are curious to know if Jones has the technical flare for such a role and whether ISIS would let a Western woman hold a high position in the organization.
The U.K.’s most infamous defector to ISIS once, Jones can now be a major target of the kind of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes that killed her husband, 21-year-old Junaid Hussein, who was leading ISIS’s hacking campaign until his death in August.
Jones, who now goes by the name Sakinah Hussain or Umm Hussain al-Britani, managed to grab the attention of Western officials after her ISIS’s September 11 online threats against Americans, said a U.S. military official.
It is believed that ISIS announced a hashtag campaign on Twitter #AmericaUnderHacks campaign to “celebrate” the anniversary under Jones’s leadership. The group released 100 names of law enforcement, military, and other government personnel as part of a kill list of the campaign.
The government websites were used to obtain the names. It was what a second U.S. military official called “lame.”
If Jones is actually able to create an operational role for herself, it could say something about the future of Western women in ISIS. While a few of Arab women have taken leadership roles in ISIS, especially, Umm Sayyaf, the wife of the terror group’s one-time financier, females from the West have not largely taken up that role. However, they have ended up as brides for ISIS fighting men, said Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University who specializes in the role of women in terror organizations.
“She appears to have picked up the flag of her late husband and is actively working to incite attacks and recruit new members.”
“There are links to be made that suggest women are taking a more proactive role, given the role of [other prominent ISIS wives] in terms of soliciting and managing the marriage bureau and sex trade,” Bloom said. “But the fact is women don’t have a frontline, active, gun toting role regardless of how many photos ISIS posts of armed, veiled women splayed on Toyota trucks.”
She added, “What’s more likely is after the appropriate mourning period, Jones, like other emigrant brides, will go back to the dorm so she can be redistributed to the fighters. Women lose the house. They lose all the original benefits they had.”
Her ISIS husband, Hussain was believed to be behind some of ISIS’s highest-profile hacking attacks, including the release of personally identifying information of 1,300 U.S. government and military personnel earlier this year. He was also suspected to be behind the hacking of U.S. Central Command’s social media feeds this summer.
Besides, he was also considered by U.S. officials to be a leader within ISIS, a recruiter and a strategist.
At the time of announcing Hussain’s death, U.S. CENTCOM spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder said Hussain “was involved in recruiting [ISIS] sympathizers in the West to carry out lone-wolf style attacks. He had significant technical skills and expressed a strong desire to kill Americans.”
Before joining the ISIS, Hussain was accused in his native U.K. of releasing former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s address book and making crank calls to a counter terrorism hotline. At that time, he just 18 years old and was sentenced to a six-month jail term.
He left for Syria in 2013. Jones, who met Hussain online, converted to Islam and followed Hussain, reportedly to the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria. According to photos posted online, she took her 10-year-old son with her wearing dark clothing that only showed her eyes.
Her tweets regarding her movements with her husband and boasting of her place in the Islamic State quickly attracted a Twitter following of her own. She posted under her Twitter handle @UmmHussain102 until it was shut down in 2014. However, she would create new accounts and rapidly pick up followers, even though her accounts were always closed.
In August last year, she posted “Alhamdulillah me and my husband made it to the Islamic State after being stuck in Idlib [in northwestern Syria] for 7mths & are now living in the khilafah #isis.”
She wrote later that month: “My husband is away at training camp at the moment refreshing his ‘kaafir [infidel] killing skills’… Don’t cry though he’ll be back soon :)”
She hit at the Christians, Jews, and the West while speaking in favor of beheadings and promising to do the same.
“You Christians all need beheading with a nice blunt knife and stuck on the railings at raqqa[Syria]….. Come here and I will do it for you.”
She strongly recommended followers to join ISIS. She is also believed to have hired women to be sex slaves for ISIS fighters, according to two military officials. Further, she also made fun of the U.S.-led coalition effort.
She retweeted a tweet that her husband had posted last year, which read “How many more body bags are American families willing to receive?”
Speaking to potential Western recruits, she said that she is having a good time living under Sharia law, who is far different from her life in Kent, where at times she was unemployed, or small-time punk band lead singer and mother. Infact, she even quoted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
She wrote last year “‘So take up arms, take up arms, O soldiers of the Islamic State! And fight, fight’ – Amir Al Mumineen Abu Bakr al Bagdadi.”
While living in ISIS, she is said to have became a grandmother to a little boy last year. However, she has never confirmed this.
However, after Hussain’s death, she wrote: “I’m proud my husband was killed by the biggest enemy of Allah, may Allah be pleased with him, and I will never love anyone but him.” U.S. military and intelligence officials are observing her to see her next move.
A U.S. intelligence official explained to The Daily Beast “Those closest to Junaid Hussain will be challenged in filling his shoes. Junaid’s notoriety, connections, and experience—despite his age—offered a skill set not easily found among extremists. That said, [ISIS] continues to push out propaganda targeting a wide range of audiences, and there’s little doubt some members of the group will try to pick up where Junaid left of.”
The U.S. officials are not impressed until now. According to them, far from being a hacker, because of her ties to the West, she is a figurehead who is being promoted as its future hacker. The officials said, on her part, there is no proof of technically proficient hacking. While she has no training in code, she is also believed to not have a high school degree.
Infact, even the most sophisticated computer experts within ISIS have yet to pull off a major hack. Instead they have carried out bundled information and fruitful Internet searches. For instance, in March, ISIS claimed that they had hacked the U.S. military and acquired personal information of 100 service members for example. However, it turned out to be that the group had just searched the Defense Department’s many public websites, created to promote the department.
Until now, the most effective hack has been of CENTCOM’s Twitter accounts earlier this summer.
Despite everything, the group’s persistence along with its aggressive social media campaign helped its online charm. However, observers said that since Hussain’s death, there has been a deterioration in ISIS hacking effort.
However, it is too early to make a credible assessment of Jones or the ISIS hacking campaign, as it has only been only a month since Hussain’s death.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies said “She is a fanatic but as far as we know she has no hacking skills. It’s not clear what going beneath the surface.”
Resource: The Daily Beast