LONDON • A mother who took her toddler to Syria and joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is thought to have become the first British woman to be convicted after returning home.
The woman, Tareena Shakil, 26, went to Syria in October 2014 and returned about three months later to Britain, where she was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London. She was charged with being a member of a terrorist group.
The authorities said Shakil was the first woman in Britain convicted of joining ISIS, although dozens of British women are suspected of having joined up in Syria and Iraq over the past 12 months.
Shakil told the police that she and her son had been kidnapped and taken to Syria while on vacation in Turkey. In a police video of her questioning, which was released to the news media last Friday, she tells investigators: "It was never my intention to enter into Syria." Investigators said, however, that they had found evidence, including Twitter posts and pictures, that demonstrated her support for ISIS.
One picture shows Shakil posing beneath an ISIS flag in Syria, the police said, and another shows her wearing a black balaclava with the group's logo on it.
The authorities also found a picture of her posing with her young son as he wore an ISIS hat. Another image of the boy had a nickname in the style of an extremist assumed name written on it and shows him standing on a couch next to a gun.
An official who leads counter-terrorism investigations in the West Midlands region of England, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, said in a statement that Shakil had been "self-radicalised by viewing extremist material on the Internet".
"Our assessment is that she was not naive," Assistant Chief Constable Beale said in the statement. "She had absolutely clear intentions when she left the United Kingdom, sending tweets encouraging the public to commit acts of terrorism here and then taking her young child to join Daesh (ISIS) in Syria."
Shakil was convicted in Birmingham Crown Court and will be sentenced tomorrow, the West Midlands Police said. They said she had travelled to Syria to become a "jihadi bride" but that it was unclear why she left ISIS-controlled territory in January last year and returned to Britain.
During the two-week trial, she told the court that she had returned to Britain because she regretted going to Syria. "I came back of my own free will," she said, according to the BBC. "I came back because I realised I had made a mistake."
At least 56 British women and girls are suspected of having travelled to Syria to join ISIS last year, the police said. The authorities have started an online campaign that aims to stem the tide of young people, both men and women, who travel to Syria to take part in the conflict there.
The police used the announcement of Shakil's conviction to draw attention to a video posted online by the campaign on Jan 11 and titled "A Message From Syrian Mothers", in which Syrian refugee women in Britain urge British women not to travel to their war-ravaged homeland and, especially, not to take their children.
"Our children are now living in security, are provided with schools, a nice life and a beautiful future," a woman who gave her name as Isaaf says in the video. "So why are you taking them to a war zone?"
NEW YORK TIMES