‘White Widow’ lured dozens of women jihadists British ISIL recruiter, son killed in CIA drone strike
NEW YORK • A British ISIL recruiter known as the White Widow and her 12-year-old son are believed to have been killed in a CIA operation after President Donald Trump relaxed restrictions on the U.S. spy agency’s drone strikes.
Sally-Anne Jones reportedly died close to the border between Syria and Iraq, in a strike thought to have also killed her son, Jojo Dixon.
The punk rock singer-turned-jihadist became Britain’s most wanted woman after fleeing to Syria from Kent in 2013 to marry computer hacker Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighter from Birmingham. Jones is believed to have attracted dozens of female recruits via social media.
A defence source said the strike had been carried out by the CIA, which runs its own fleet of Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles.
Trump ramped up the CIA’s strike program soon after taking office, allowing the agency more freedom to carry out strikes and hinting he may relax rules of engagement designed to protect civilians. The CIA declined to comment.
The British government is not believed to have been consulted over the strike in June and there was no U.K. military involvement.
Sir Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said Jones was a legitimate target. He warned British nationals who had joined ISIL and were plotting attacks on Britain “you have made yourself a legitimate target and you run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile.”
The sister of one girl recruited by Jones said she hoped the 50-year-old would “rot in hell.”
One counterterrorism source told The Telegraph: “I don’t think the significance of her death should be underestimated. She was genuinely very dangerous.”
Jojo was reportedly used as a human shield by his mother and stepfather to protect them from military drone strikes. A photograph taken in Raqqa in 2016 showed the boy wearing the uniform of the “cubs of the caliphate,” the clothing worn by ISIL’s child soldiers.
Jones fled to Syria with her son in November 2013, joining her boyfriend, whom she had met online. The couple later married in Raqqa. Hussain, from Birmingham, was assassinated in a U.S. drone strike in August 2015 in Raqqa.