‘Raqqa was hell’ says Briton on trial for taking child to Syria

Tareena Shakil says she saw the Turkish border and ran for it to escape the clutches of Islamic State. Picture: PA
Tareena Shakil says she saw the Turkish border and ran for it to escape the clutches of Islamic State. Picture: PA
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A British mother on trial accused of taking her toddler to Syria and joining Islamic State (IS) described her dash for the border to escape the group’s clutches.

Tareena Shakil said she spotted the Turkish border and “just ran, ran, ran” with her child, making herself known to a friendly military patrol who took her into custody.

She also described life under IS rule, where she is alleged to have spent three months from October 2014, as “hell” and “horrible”. She was being interviewed back in the UK by British police.

The prosecution claims she made up the story, and has showed messages in which she is alleged to have told friends and family she was “happy as Larry” to be living in the IS capital, Raqqa.

Photographs also allegedly show Shakil posing with an IS balaclava and brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle, while in the city of some 200,000 ­people.

A senior security analyst, in evidence, said only Islamic State women from the all-female specialist police unit the Al-Khansa brigade were allowed access to weapons in the self-declared caliphate.

Jurors hearing evidence in the terror trial at Birmingham Court have already been told by Shakil’s barrister his client accepts travelling to Syria and later lying about her account to the UK authorities, but denies wrongdoing.

In tapes of her police interview played to the court, she claimed to have gone on a package holiday to Turkey, falling for a mystery man she met at the beach, before being kidnapped and driven across the border after travelling to Gaziantep.

From there she said she was taken to Jarabulus in Syria with other women, including Russians, and after about a week arrived in Raqqa – though she claimed to be unaware that was the destination – where she lived with other non-married girls.

“They took us to a really big house. There was about 60 or 70 people,” she said.

She added: “Immediately. I thought this place is hell, this place is hell.

“This place is not good. It’s a horrible place.”

While there, she said the girls were watched by two others, a Moroccan and Saudi woman, and that another man would visit to arrange marriages to jihadi fighters.

Shakil said: “All the time women; married, gone, married, gone, married, gone.”

Shakil denies joining proscribed terror group IS and a charge of encouraging acts of terror through Twitter.