ISIS in Libya is now using women in combat roles, as well as in suicide bombing missions, according to a Libyan official.
The roles of women within ISIS have until now been limited to positions within the Al-Khansaa brigade—a group of women responsible for policing cities like Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq—to make sure women are abiding by ISIS laws.
“The women mostly handle the logistics of the battle but they are also fighting,” mayor of Sabratha, Libya, Hussein al-Thwadi, told the U.K. Times.
This comes as news of three women killed in combat and at least seven, originally from Tunisia fighting alongside men, were arrested in Sabratha.
“One of them tried to blow herself up, wearing an explosive vest,” Taher al-Gharabli, head of Sabratha’s military council told the Times.
In Syria, a former leader in the Al-Khansaa women’s police brigade has been appointed to head an all-female battalion in Hasakeh, a further sign that women are now being deployed to in active combat roles.
Nada al-Qahtani left Saudi Arabia for Syria in 2013, later pledging allegiance to Al Baghdadi, and has reportedly met with the self-declared Caliph and senior Islamic State officials.
Qahtani is someone who portrays a “strong character” and “plays a prominent role on the level of communicating with foreign fighters,” an activist told Saudi website Al Arabiya.
The Al-Khansaa Brigade is largely made up of foreign jihadist women from North Africa, Europe and other Persian Gulf countries, and 60 of them are believed to be from the United Kingdom.
A key member of the Al-Khansaa Brigade is 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood from the U.K., who has been seen posting instructions and checklists for young schoolgirls on what to pack before leaving their families to join ISIS.
Women living in Islamic State-controlled territories are faced with extremely strict dress codes, mandating that they cover every inch of their body, hiding their eyes and any skin and forbid any use of makeup. Punishment for violating dress codes ranges from public lashings to death.