Woman's tweets tracked from Toronto to ISIS front lines: report
Published Friday, January 30, 2015 1:47PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 30, 2015 10:02PM EST
A woman who may be Canadian is believed to have been on the front lines of Islamic State-controlled territory, giving away her locations in Syria and Iraq with every tweet.
According to a report from the U.S.-based Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, or TRAC, a woman who tweeted from Toronto up until Nov. 23, 2014 suddenly appeared in Syria. In early December, her Android phone was tracked in Raqqa, a major ISIS stronghold.
Because she didn’t disable her cellphone’s geo-tagging function, the woman revealed her location every time she tweeted. She posted pro-ISIS messages and used a photo of a beheading as her Twitter background image, according to TRAC.
The Waterloo, Ont.-based organization that tracked the woman’s tweets is called iBRABO and describes itself as an “open source intelligence research group.”
iBRABO had previously tracked geotagged tweets of a suspected New Zealand jihadist who travelled to Syria to fight with ISIS.
Jeff Weyers, a senior analyst with iBRABO, said the group doesn’t know for sure whether the woman tweeting from ISIS battlegrounds is Canadian. He and his fellow analysts assume she’s Canadian because her tweets started out in Toronto.
Asked how he can be certain that the person behind the Twitter account is a woman, Weyers said the Twitter handle is a female name. He also said the tweets – the majority of them in Arabic -- are much different than those of male jihadists and ISIS supporters, who often post threatening and violent messages.
“You don’t see that with her. It’s a much softer extremist profile,” Weyers told CTV News.
The TRAC report says the woman, referred to only as “L.A,” has “travelled across more ISIS controlled territory than any other ISIS account we have monitored.”
Throughout December and January, the woman was tracked in a number of cities, including Mosul, Aleppo and Kobane, where ISIS militants were recently defeated by the Kurds.
The TRAC report says the woman’s presence on the front lines is unusual because Islamic State militants do not allow women to fight with them. Usually, women who support ISIS serve as so-called “jihadi brides,” TRAC says.
But in this case, “she’s actively on battle lines,” said Veryan Khan, TRAC’s editorial director.
“This has never been seen before,” she told CTV News.
Both Weyers and Khan said it appears that the woman has some kind of a surveillance role within ISIS to help militants in their battles for strongly contested regions. Weyers said the woman has been actively tweeting from the locations of ISIS’s enemies.
“It is possible that with the severe losses ISIS was experiencing they needed the ability to gather intelligence using women, and thus allowed L.A. to penetrate into Kobane,” the TRAC report says.
The woman’s last known tweet was posted from Raqqa on Jan. 25, Weyers said. He would not say whether iBRABO’s findings have been shared with Canadian authorities.
“We don’t share with the media our involvement with intelligence agencies,” he said.
Canadian officials won’t confirm whether they are investigating the case.
Thousands of men from western countries are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside ISIS. Increasingly, intelligence services around the world and amateur groups have been tracking women and girls in ISIS-controlled territories.
Last year, two Austrian teenage girls made international headlines when they fled their middle-class homes in Vienna to join ISIS terrorists in Syria.
With a report from CTV’s Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Laurie Graham