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Tareena Shakil guilty of taking son to Syria to join IS

Published 29/01/2016

Tareena Shakil, 26, denies taking her toddler to Syria to join Islamic State
Tareena Shakil, 26, denies taking her toddler to Syria to join Islamic State

A mother has been found guilty of taking her toddler son to Syria to join Islamic State (IS), becoming the first British woman convicted of the offence after returning from the self-declared caliphate.

Tareena Shakil posed her boy for pictures wearing an IS-branded balaclava after secretly running away to Syria in October 2014.

She was also convicted of encouraging acts of terror in Twitter posts made before leaving the UK.

During a two-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, 26-year-old Shakil had denied the charges, claiming she only travelled to Syria because of a wish to live under the rule of sharia law.

However, the jury did not believe her account after seeing tweets, messages and photographs, including images of the black flag of IS and passages calling on people to "take up arms", and stating her wish to become a "martyr".

It took the jury of six men and six women nine hours and 35 minutes to reach their decision, and when they did it was unanimous.

Judge Melbourne Inman QC told Shakil - who looked stunned by the verdicts - that she would be sentenced on Monday.

The Recorder of Birmingham said: " You may go down and be remanded in custody until Monday's sentence.

Shakil had claimed she feared eternal damnation if she did not make the journey, and told loved ones staying in the UK in a damaged relationship with her estranged husband would "lead me to hell".

In a conversation with her father on WhatsApp, in mid-December 2014 while living under IS rule, she told him: "I want to die here as a martyr."

She later claimed these messages were sent under duress by female Islamic State minders.

Jurors heard that before going to Syria, Shakil had chatted online with "prominent IS member" Fabio Pocas.

She was also in touch with Sally Ann Jones, the British widow of Birmingham jihadi Junaid Hussain who was killed in a drone strike in Syria last year.

There were further signs of growing radicalisation, including searches for videos of Anwar al Awlaki, an al-Qaeda-linked extremist who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

The 26-year-old also changed the status of her Facebook page - emblazoned with the black flag of IS - to read: "If you don't like the current events in Sham (Syria) take to arms and not the keyboard."

But when asked in court if she ever intended to encourage acts of terror, she replied: "Not at all."

Her defence barrister said in court that with the breakdown of her marriage in 2014, she was "vulnerable" to IS targeted recruitment over the internet, but that did not make her a member.

Shakil, of Beechfield Road in Birmingham but formerly of Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, told loved ones she was going to Turkey on a beach holiday, but secretly fled across the border into Syria, where she was later taken to Raqqa, the de facto IS capital.

While there, she admitted posing her son in a black balaclava branded with the IS logo.

Photographs recovered from her phone showed sinister images of her with an AK47 assault rifle, holding a handgun and wearing an IS balaclava.

Another photo showed what she accepted in evidence was her stood outside in a full-length black niqab carrying her child, and stood by an IS flag.

In one message she joked to her father: "I accidentally shot a hole in someone's front door today," however later in court she said this was not true.

Shakil claimed that many of the messages asserting she was content with life and was "happy" in Raqqa were in fact sent under duress from IS minders, who monitored her communications.

In a conversation with her brother just before she crossed into Syria, she said: "We will meet again either here, or heaven."

In December, three weeks before her escape and in reply to her father's pleas for her to return, she said: "I can leave but I don't want (to). I want to die here as a martyr.

"There are too many blessings dying as a martyr."

Nevertheless, she escaped IS territory, telling jurors she realised she had "made a mistake".

On her return to the UK in February last year, she admitted giving false accounts to the police and initially denying any knowledge of any tweets and the photographs until just weeks before her trial.

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