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How one Kuwaiti girl fell into the Daesh trap.

Summary: Girl who travelled to Egypt was rescued after Daesh attempt to extract ransom money from her father thwarted

Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Kuwait City: She was like any other normal Kuwaiti teenager, enjoying a peaceful life and dedicating her time to her high school studies.

Until she met Fatima.

"I was a Grade 11 student in a Gulf country in 2012 and 2013 when I met Fatima, a Sudanese girl. "We became very close friends and shared a lot of things. Then, Fatima started telling me that she was closely following media details about Al Qaida and eventually gave me a memory card with pictures, poems, videos about Daesh. Fatima kept giving me more memory cards and my interest in the group steadily increased."

Fatima warned her "best friend" to be very secretive about her new support for Daesh.

"People do not easily accept their ideology and the world needs some time to be convinced about it," she said.

"As I was about to graduate and leave the Gulf country, Fatima showed me how to use social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to communicate. When I went back to Kuwait, I added accounts recommended by Fatima to my social media platforms. They were related to the Daesh group. I used the moniker of Huda and I used my accounts to republish news and information from the Daesh accounts," she said.

"And then, I met online one of the Daesh leaders who called himself Abu Muslim. We communicated in private so that only he and I could see what was being sent or received. He told me that his real name was Ali. He regularly sent me fatwas about the significance of Daesh and I leaned towards what he was saying."

As Ali realised that she has grown dependent on him, he moved to the next stage.

"He persuaded me that I should leave Kuwait and embark on a terrorist mission. He asked me to go to Syria. When I acquiesced, he asked me to buy a ticket to Turkey where designated people will look after me and take me into Syri.a I bought the ticket in 2015, and on departure day, I sneaked out of house at dawn without informing my parents. However, at Kuwait airport, I was told that I could not travel because my passport would expire in less than one month."

When I informed Ali about the failure of the plan, he became very upset.

"However, he quickly resumed correspondence and kept feeding me with the names of more accounts and of a radio station dedicated to Daesh news. He asked me to liaise with a woman called Rania, nicknamed Umm Zaid, on Telegram Messenger. I did contact her, informing her that Ali gave me her contact. She added my name to an account that had only women believing in Daesh ideology and started sending me fatwas and religious texts. I felt elated being among this group of women who shared the Daesh ideology. I felt transported myself to the days of early Islam."

Some of the group members were already in Syria and Iraq, engaged in terror activities.

"There were also others, like me, who were waiting for their turn to join the battle. The women were in various countries, but as far as I know, I was the only one in Kuwait."

Ali, her mentor, was still in touch with her.

"One day, Ali contacted me and asked me to book a ticket to Turkey from where I will be taken to Syria. However, this time, I told him that I did not have enough money to purchase the ticket. He asked me to send him a copy of my passport so that he could buy the ticket. After some time, I received the ticket. He told me that he had taken care of all the arrangements, from my reception in Turkey until I reach the designated place in Syria. Everything was fine and I was excited."

Two hours before leaving her home, she received a message from Ali.

"He told me to freeze everything and not to go to the airport. He told me that the security situation in Istanbul was tense following an attack carried out by armed men on the airport. He said that I would be easily discovered. I followed the instructions and stayed home. We communicated for some time, and then, I did not hear anything from him. I later learnt from the websites that he was killed on August 2, 2016."

She kept monitoring the sites dedicated to the terror group.

"I came across the account of Abu Abdullah who fully supported the group ideology and posted their news. We communicated regularly through messages on Facebook. One day, he asked me to travel and see him in Egypt where I will be engaged in a terrorist operation in Sinai. I agreed and on February 7, I headed to Cairo. I was received by several leaders of the group. However, I was arrested by the Egyptian security forces on April 11. I was questioned for days and on April 26, I was taken to a plane and handed over to Kuwaiti security people. In Kuwait, I was taken to a security building before I was referred to a court."

During her trial, she told the judges about her life as a potential terrorist.

"I supported the ideology of the group and I was able to reach Egypt after I twice failed to go to Syria to join them. However, today I regret what I did because I have discovered they were wrong."

Why did you regret your moves?

"When I went to Egypt and had my first physical contacts with Daesh leaders, I saw that they were not committed to religion. In one instance, one of them contacted my father and warned him that he would kill me if he did not pay a ransom of 5,000 Kuwaiti dinars. My father ended up transferring the money to a bank account in Egypt. Abu Abdullah was arrested when he went to the bank to withdraw the money. In his confessions, he told the police about me and they arrested me. After all the images I conjured up in my mind about Islamic groups, I was shocked to see how different they were in reality, so I bitterly regretted entering in contact with them. I anticipated being actively involved in helping terrorists in smuggling weapons or preparing someone to commit a suicide attack in the service of the ideology. I personally was not ready to blow myself up. But I discovered that the situation was totally different from what I had anticipated. As for the operation plans, I think they did not go through because of the lack of funds and because Abu Abdullah was arrested."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7KUWA
Date:May 27, 2017
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