Groomed and recruited: How IS lured a Kuwaiti teen

Groomed and recruited: How IS lured a Kuwaiti teen
A Kuwaiti teenager who is on trial for travelling to join the Islamic State group in Egypt's tense Sinai region, says how she was lured, groomed and recruited online.
4 min read
27 May, 2017
The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 [Getty]
A Kuwaiti teen who attempted to travel abroad to join the militant Islamic State group after months of grooming online, has spoken out about her experience for the first time.

The unnamed high school student, who was studying in another Gulf country between 2012 and 2013, said she was "normal" before a woman who introduced her to "extremist" material, she told Gulf News.

It included poems, videos and images that seemingly supported the Islamic State group's sickening ideology.

"Fatima kept giving me more memory cards and my interest in the group steadily increased," the teen said.

She noted that her new online Sudanese friend had urged her to protect the material from others who did not understand the ideology, according to Gulf News.

By the time the Kuwaiti teen was due to return to Kuwait, Fatima had taught her how to effectively use social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Telegram to access the militant group's widely available online material.

For the next few months, the teen became increasingly close to an alleged "[IS] leader who called himself Abu Muslim".

"We communicated in private," she said, adding that the militant used Islamic texts to persuade her to believe in the significance of IS.

Eventually, the Abu Muslim persuaded the young girl to leave her home to embark on a "terrorist mission", she said.

She advised her to book a ticket to Turkey where she would then be "looked after" and taken to Syria.

In 2015, the  teen bought a ticket to Turkey and snuck out of her home, only to be denied travel due to her soon-to-be-expired passport.

Unphased by the failed attempt, the teen returned home and joined a Telegram group of like-minded females, delving deeper into the dark world of IS online.

"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."

Months later, Abu Muslim took a second shot at recruiting the young girl, and this time, booked her ticket to Turkey himself.

But just two hours before leaving her home once again, the militant ordered the girl remain at home due to heightened situation in Istanbul following an attack at the airport.

"I personally was not ready to blow myself up."

"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 2 August 2016."

Despite the death of her recruiter, the teen remained dedicated to the group and was soon picked up by another militant, this time Abu Abdullah from Egypt who had plans to use her in suicide missions in the tense Sinai region.

"I agreed and on 7 February, I headed to Cairo," she said, where she was received by several leaders of the group.

Just a few weeks later, on 11 April,  the teen said she was arrested by the Egyptian security forces and was questioned for days.

"On 26 April, I was taken to a plane and handed over to Kuwaiti security. In Kuwait, I was taken to a security building before I was referred to a court."

Speaking during her trial, the teen said she regrets the decision she made and now understands the militants' were "wrong".

"When I went to Egypt and had my first physical contacts with [IS] leaders, I saw that they were not committed to religion," she told the courts.

She said one militant took advantage of her family and threatened to kill her should her father not pay a hefty ransom.

"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."

"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," she added.