British IS recruiter Sally-Anne Jones, dubbed the White Widow, was “a legitimate target”, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said in the closest the UK has come to a confirmation that she was killed in a US drone strike.
Speaking later, Fallon said: “I won’t comment on the specific strike reported today. However, I can confirm that if you are a British national in Iraq or Syria, and have chosen to fight for Daesh, an illegal organisation preparing and conspiring terrorist attacks on our streets, then you have made yourself a legitimate target and run the risk, every hour of every day, of being on the wrong end of an RAF or USAF missile.”
While the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office is not commenting, a Government source told HuffPost UK the minister’s words all but confirmed the reports.
Jones and her husband Junaid Hussain went to Syria in 2013 to join the so-called Islamic State.
He was killed by a US drone in 2015, and had reportedly been planning “barbaric attacks against the West” including terror plots targeting high profile public commemorations this summer.
News of Jones’ death was not made public amid fears that her 12-year-old son Jojo may also have been killed, according to The Sun.
Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, told the Radio 4′s Today programme that it is “very likely” that Jones had been killed, but added that unless special forces sent a team on the ground to gather DNA, there was no way to be 100% sure.
“But US sources are pretty certain that they have got her,” he said.
Gardner said Jones’ death would be “significant” to IS from a propaganda perspective, but that it would make, “no difference to Isis’s fortunes on the battleground”.
“She was useful for Isis as a symbolic Western figure who was prolific on social media,” he said.
Jones, who was previously the bass guitarist in all-girl punk rock group Krunch and a L’Oreal saleswoman, left her home in Chatham, Kent, after converting to radical Islam.
She used her Twitter account to recruit women and provided practical advice on how to travel to Syria.
Jones was said to be a high priority target for the Pentagon because of suggested she was behind dozens of terror plots and was the leader of the secret Anwar al-Awlaki battalion’s female wing.
She was said to be responsible for training European female terror recruits.
Born in Greenwich, London, Jones encouraged individuals to carry out attacks in Britain, offering guidance on how to construct home-made bombs.
She has also shared pictures of herself posing with weapons and is believed to be the sixth Briton killed by drones in Syria.
Jones also posted messages in support of IS as well as extremist comments such as: “You Christians all need beheading with a nice blunt knife and stuck on the railings at Raqqa.
“Come here I’ll do it for you.”
Major General Chip Chapman, the former MoD head of counter terror, said Jones would have been a target as a result of her alliance with Hussain and her role in recruiting IS fighters.
Referring to reports her son was killed in the strike, he added: “It is a difficult one because under the UN Charters he is under the age of what we would classify as a soldier.”
He continued: “Even if he got up to really bad things, he shouldn’t have been targeted.
“We don’t know for sure whether he was with her or not.”
Jones left school at 16 and worked as a beautician before later falling pregnant. The child’s father died from liver cirrhosis when their son was just two years old.
Jones later met Hussain on an online dating site and the pair fled to the Middle East with their youngest son, Jojo, now 12, leaving the older child behind.