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Why (and how) some terrorists are recruiting women

One of the world’s most wanted right now is a 26-year-old French woman Hayat Boumediene, the alleged accomplice and girlfriend to one of the slain jihadist gunmen in the Paris attacks last week. While her location during the attacks is in question, she is now believed to have crossed into Syria, possibly joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

If true, she would join a long list of female insurgents—insurgents security forces rarely suspect, according to Mia Bloom, a Professor of security studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and author of “Bombshell: Women and Terrorism.”

More recent attacks include Russia’s “black widows“—women carrying out attacks to avenge their husband’s deaths. In addition, Nigeria has seen a disturbing spike in female suicide bombers (some involuntary) in the brutal radical movement, Boko Haram.

And late last year, three Colorado teens made headlines when the FBI found them in Germany en route to Syria to join ISIS.

How could young girls and even older women view movements that enslave and oppress women as attractive enough to leave home and join?

Perhaps what is working in recruiting the men is working for the women. ISIS—already well-known for its slick social-media campaign—recently launched a media wing for women called The Zora Foundation. Among other things, the recruitment videos have recipes, first aid tutorials, and courses on how to sew and be the ultimate jihadi wife.

While this may sound bizarre, it’s effective. By one estimate, 1 in 10 of the group’s foreign recruits are women.

Video: Ingrid Rojas, Carlos Navarrete

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