A security expert from Syria has warned that the terror group known as ISIS has plans to use its dreaded all-female group, the Al-Khansaa Brigade, to attack Christian sites in Europe.
According to Jay Akbar of the Daily Mail, the president of the Center for Strategy, Military and Security Studies in Syria, Fahad Al-Masri, mentioned that ISIS would send at least ten members from its Al-Khansaa Brigade to target "Christian symbols" in Europe. The female militants are infamously known for mercilessly beating women who step out of line and force some of them into sex slavery.
"This is the first time women will be used in these operations," Al-Masri said, citing his undisclosed sources from ISIS-held Syria. "It will be a surprise for the European authorities who look for men."
Al-Masri added that there are "many European women" within the brigade, which would allow them to get in undetected.
"We don't think the women will be wearing a hijab or burka - so they do not stand out," Al-Masri said. "They will be normal like everybody, as if they are tourists."
The Daily Mail reported that Al-Masri used to work for the Free Syrian Army rebel group, which battled both ISIS and Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in that country's civil war. However, he was fired by the FSA after making comments urging all foreign jihadists to "get out of Syria" in a 2013 interview.
"The next operations for ISIS in Europe will be against Christians," Al-Masri said. "In the Middle East, it's mainly been Sunni against Shi'ite Muslims, but now ISIS wants to create a conflict between Christians and Muslims. That means ISIS will try and attack Christian symbols in Europe - like the Vatican for example."
According to the Daily Mail, some experts believe the Sunni extremists have targeted Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq and Syria to start a sectarian war within Islam. Al-Masri indicated that ISIS is trying to do the same thing in the West.
"European nations are not the only ones in danger," Akbar wrote, citing Al-Masri's sources. ISIS also plans to send the female fanatics to attack African nations and Arab countries like UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey also."
However, some security analysts have expressed skepticism to the Daily Mail about Al-Masri's claims, which they called "far-fetched" given the high level of security and tracking in European countries. In addition, no evidence exists of ISIS, a male-dominated group, using women to launch attacks.
"These women would have the same difficulties as anyone else trying to launch an attack," said Raffaello Pantucci of RUSI, a counter-terrorism think-tank. "Who would you send? You would have to send someone you know had not been noticed by security services before - because they know women as well as men are traveling so they're watching out for both."
Pantucci thought "it would be incredibly difficult" for ISIS terrorists to "get into a country like the UK."
"You would have to sneak past a very high level of security," Pantucci said.
Pantucci also questioned the logic of why ISIS would send women to conduct such attacks, given its brutal treatment on them as second-class citizens.
"Why would such a chauvinist society send women back to carry out attacks?" Pantucci said. "There is no evidence of them ever using women before so there's no reason for them to start now."
The Daily Mail cited the account of Umm Abaid, a former Al-Khansaa enforcer who later fled to Turkey after her husband was killed in a suicide bomb attack. She described how the brigade enforced the strict interpretation of sharia law according to ISIS standards.
"Anyone who broke the rules, we would lash," Abaid said. "Then we would take her male guardian, her brother, father or husband, and lash him, too."
Abaid recalled one incident where she harshly enforced sharia law.
"I remember one woman walking with her husband wearing a robe with images on it," Abaid said. "We arrested her and took her to the Al-Khansaa base. I lashed her with my own hands."
According to the Daily Mail, as many as 60 British women are thought to be members of the brigade. In addition to enforcing Islamic law, the group also looked out for dissenters and ran brothels where kidnapped girls are forced into sex slavery.