One of Britain’s most notorious terrorists is thought to have been killed in a drone strike on an Isis stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.
Sally-Anne Jones, who went by the name “Umma Hussain al Britani” and “Sakinah Hussain”, in Syria, was dubbed the “White Widow” by the press for her role in masterminding terror plots as well as being a propagandist and top recruiter for Isis.
It is thought she was killed as she was fleeing Raqqa – Isis’ self-declared capital, where many fighters are making their last stand against US-backed coalition forces.
Who was Sally-Anne Jones?
Jones was a 50-year-old mother-of-two who left the UK with one of her sons in 2013 to join the “caliphate” in its early days. Her son was eight or nine at the time.
When she arrived she was married to Junaid Hussain, a British-Pakistani computer hacker who discovered the identities of 1,300 US personnel, many of whom were serving at UK air bases.
Hussain was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, aged 21, when he ventured out without Jones’ son, who was routinely used as a human shield by the pair. Following his death Jones became known as “the White Widow”.
Jones was reportedly responsible for publishing the names and details of the military personnel her husband had hacked – in a bid to allow Isis militants to target them.
She was supposedly behind a plot to assassinate the Queen and Prince Philip during a 2015 celebration commemorating Japan’s surrender during the Second World War.
The same year, the then Prime Minister David Cameron said Jones’ husband had planned “barbaric attacks against the West”, including a plot for a terror attack that targeted “high profile public commemorations”.
Jones was also said to have been among the plotters who masterminded Isis’ kidnapping of a US army veteran who was beheaded by the terror group.
Jones had numerous Twitter accounts and published pictures of herself posing with a Kalashnikov and a pistol.
In a 2016 Twitter post she wrote: “I just wanna say… have a nice summer. I wouldn’t go into central London through June or July. Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t go there at all by Tube.”
That year she also called on women in London, Glasgow and Cardiff to carry out terror attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.
Latterly, Jones was said to be desperate to flee Syria and return to Britain.
Where was she from?
Jones was born in Greenwich and lived in the dockyard town of Chatham in Kent. According to The Sun, she was her parents’ only daughter. Her father had been a greengrocer but committed suicide after he and his wife divorced. Jones was 10 years old at the time.
She left school at 16 and worked as a beautician, but was also a guitarist and singer in an all-female punk band in Kent in the 1990s, called Krunch.
In 1996 she had her first child with labourer Jonathan Wilkinson. Wilkinson died in 1999 from cirrhosis of the liver.
Her second son, Joe, known as Jojo, was born in 2004.
She first encountered Hussain in an online forum, and he eventually persuaded her to travel to Syria. Jones left the country, taking Jojo with her.
Terry Lynch, Jojo’s grandfather previously spoke to the press after pictures of his grandson holding a handgun in an Isis execution video were published.
At the time he told The Sun: “I couldn’t believe it, I feel so sad. That is a wasted life. His life is finished.
“There is no way he can come back to the normal world. It’s terrible. Unbelievable. I feel really guilty because the boy used to say to me, ‘Grandad, can I stay with you?’”
Speaking about his stepdaughter he said: “The sooner they blow her up the better. She’s a nutter and so selfish. She’s hurt everybody and screwed them all up.”
Why was she important to Isis?
Though she had little tactical value to Isis on the battlefield, the loss of Jones will be significant to the terror group.
After gaining notoriety in the press, she became something of an icon for the group – a symbol of how Isis could influence women from foreign countries.
Speaking to the BBC, Azadeh Moaveni, a journalist and author of the book Lipstick Jihad, said Jones’s power lay in helping Isis project the notion it could “get into the very reaches of British society”.
Jones was a major proponent in the group’s attempt to lure western female recruits, and described herself as “leading a battalion of jihadist women”.
She also advised would-be jihadists on travel to Syria.
What do we know about her death?
Jones’ high-level involvement with terror plots made her a high priority on the Pentagon’s “kill list”.
The CIA is said to have told their counterparts at MI6 that the Islamist militant, who left Kent to join Isis in 2013, was killed close to the border between Syria and Iraq in June.
An unmanned US Air Force Predator strike drone reportedly killed her as she was attempting to flee Raqqa – which is currently the subject of intense fighting as Isis are driven back by coalition forces.
She is believed to have been heading to the town of Mayadin, one of the few remaining Isis strongholds, when she was killed.
A Whitehall source reportedly told The Sun: “The Americans zapped her trying to get away from Raqqa. Quite frankly, it’s good riddance.”
The newspaper reported that the successful strike had previously been kept quiet over fears it may have also killed her 12-year-old son Jojo.
The drone was flown by remote operators at an airbase in the US, who are thought to have shot Jones after believing her son was not in the vicinity.
But the US warned that it is not absolutely certain of Jones’s death as there was no attempt to recover any of her DNA.
Jones is thought to be the sixth British person to be killed by a drone in Syria.
Her last Twitter post was in September 2016.
She said: “I’ll never marry again. I’ll remain loyal to my husband until my last breath.”
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