Sally-Anne Jones, a British recruit for the terrorist group ISIS has reportedly been killed in Syria in a U.S. drone strike.
Jones, 48, is thought to have perished in June; however, reports confirming her death came out on October 12. It is believed she was caught in a U.S. manned airstrike close to the border between Iraq and Syria. Her 12-year-old son, Jojo, whom she took from a previous partner to Syria in 2015, is also believed to have died during the strike.
Born in the city of Kent, Jones grew up in a Catholic household. In her later years, she rebelled against her upbringing and joined a punk rock band, even getting involved in the drug scene. After converting to Islam, Jones joined ISIS and travelled to Syria in 2013. Her husband, Junaid Hussein, a jihadi himself, was killed 2015 by a drone strike. Hussein was a highly-valued member of the ISIS leadership for his technological skills. From then on, the widowed Jones became popularly known in the media and in the ISIS ranks as the White Widow.
As part of the propaganda effort to recruit Western girls to the ISIS cause, she used her Twitter account to give advice on how to travel to Syria and would often share pictures of herself posing with weapons. Maintaining a streak of hostile and incessant propaganda, she encouraged attacks in the West through social media, offering advice on lone wolf attacks and instructions for how to make home-made explosives. She is believed to have been involved in a 2015 ISIS plan to assassinate the Queen of the United Kingdom and her husband, Prince Philip. Her importance in the terrorist group cannot be underestimated. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni claims that she was so iconic because of how she helped the radical group project its ideas “into the very reaches of British society.”
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said Jones had been a useful propaganda agent for ISIS on social media and that her death would be “significant” in the fight against ISIS, further confirming that her death represents a setback for their propaganda program. Members of parliament were also quick to respond to reports. Commenting on the issue, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon refrained from talking about Jones explicitly but confirmed that whoever chooses to fight for the radical terrorist group instantly makes themselves a “legitimate target,” thus they “run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile.” Prime Minister Theresa May also shared her thoughts on the reports, specifically, that though she was “aware of the reports” she was “not in a position to comment further.”
Though Jones’ death may represent a small victory in the ongoing fight against ISIS, it brings to life a dark reality. The use of media can be both useful and dangerous, and Jones’ case highlights an instance where social media was used to endorse propaganda for a deadly terrorist group. It also represents a very real fear about the influence of terrorist groups and how dangerous a world it is when anyone, of any background or identification, can become a criminal and a threat to society. Such issues would certainly be in the best of the public interest to assess and attend to.