- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ten of the 71 recruits for the Islamic State arrested in the U.S. since 2014 have been women, according to a report that indicates the roles of women in the militant group’s ranks is increasing.

Since March 2014, authorities have charged 71 people with Islamic State-related activities. This year alone, 56 of them were arrested — a record number of terrorism-related arrests for any year since 9/11, according to the report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Although the majority of Islamic State recruits and supporters are men, an alarming number of women are joining the extremist group to help carry out its jihadi agenda.

Researchers identified 300 American and/or U.S.-based Islamic State sympathizers who use social media to radicalize recruits. Women operated about one-third of those accounts, according to the report.

“A handful of studies have attempted to identify the reasons why ISIS’s ideology attracts a growing number of Western women. While some of these motivations are identical to that of their male counterparts (i.e. the search for a personal identity and the desire to build a strict Islamic society), others are specific to women,” the report says.

The role of women in the Islamic State varies, according to the report, “from propaganda disseminators and recruiters to those as the ‘wife of jihadist husband’ and ‘mother to the next generation.’”

The findings were released as investigators looked for terrorist ties between Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the husband-and-wife shooters whose rampage Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead and 21 wounded.

It was revealed Thursday that Malik, a Pakistani who had entered the U.S. under a “fiancee” visa, pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook before she and Farook carried out their shooting rampage.

Authorities say the couple may have been radicalized by Islamic extremists either in the U.S. or during trips to the Middle East, including to Saudi Arabia.

The FBI is investigating the massacre as terrorism, but has not concluded a motive behind the attack. Authorities said there is evidence to suggest the couple were radicalized, but they have found no definite ties to any terrorist cells.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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