Three American teenage girls were allegedly on their way to Syria during the weekend to join Islamic State militants, the FBI confirmed Tuesday. The FBI was able to track the girls down in Frankfurt, Germany, after their parents reported them missing earlier in the week. They are now back in the United States.
"FBI Denver Division is aware of the situation and assisted with bringing the individuals back to Denver," said Suzie Payne, a spokeswoman for the FBI. "The juveniles are safe and reunited with their families."
The girls, all from the Colorado area, are of either Somali or other African descent, Fox News reported. Two are sisters ages 15 and 16, and the third is believed to be younger than 16, according to VOA News. No arrests have been made.
The girls reportedly were in contact with someone in Germany who was to facilitate their journey to jihad and help them “to fulfill what they believe is some vision that has been put out on a slick media campaign,” a law enforcement official told ABC News.
The militant group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has an effective propaganda campaign it uses for recruiting Westerners. ISIS spreads its message through social media through point-men on the ground in Western cities who support jihad. Until recently many of these tactics were aimed only at recruiting young men. Women who joined ISIS were thought to fulfill the duty of “jihadi bride.” But the three teenagers from the Denver area said they were going to Syria to join the fight.
A new ISIS online propaganda campaign launched last week could signal an expansion of the role of women in jihad. Called “al-Zawra,” the campaign uses various social media platforms and videos to disseminate a how-to of jihad for young women, Vocativ reported. Aside from cooking and sewing (apparently two essential skills for a woman looking to join the jihad), the campaign aims to “teach sisters software design and editing,” and “the physical side and ... the use of weapons.”
It is unknown if the three girls were aware of the new propaganda series, but their attempt to join ISIS does mean at least part of the group’s recruitment campaign is working.