For more than two years, Sally Jones, the fugitive British jihadist, has been the world’s most wanted female terrorist.
Since she fled to Syria from Kent to marry Junaid Hussain, an Isil fighter from Birmingham, a handful of social media messages were the only clues to Jones’s life in the terror group’s “caliphate”.
But thanks to information from activists in Syria and an Isil defector in southern Turkey, The Telegraph has managed to piece together the movements of Jones and her 11-year-old son, Joe “JoJo” Dixon.
A single mother-of-two living on benefits, Jones had grown increasingly dissatisfied with her life. She began chatting online to 19-year-old computer hacker Hussain, with whom she became besotted.
They talked about their lives in England, Islam and the increasingly fractious war in Syria. Hassan told Jones he wanted to leave to join Isil and encouraged her to join him.
Leaked Isil documents show how in July 2013 Hussain crossed from Turkey into Syria through the Jarablus border crossing – the route used by most of the group’s new recruits due to its proximity to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the caliphate.
Jones followed six months later during the Christmas school holidays and just after Joe’s ninth birthday. Her eldest son, who was 18 at the time, decided to stay in the UK with his girlfriend.
The couple married the day Jones arrived in Syria, in front of only a handful of witnesses in a small Islamic ceremony in Idlib in the north of the country. Jones officially converted to Islam and changed her name to Sakinah Hussain and her son’s to Hamza.
When they arrived in Raqqa, the newlyweds were separated. Hussain went to the countryside for training, while Jones was taken to Tala’a camp southwest of the city, where she spent six weeks being tested for her loyalty to the group and taught the jihadists’ interpretation of sharia law, according to an activist with the anti-Isil group the Sound and Picture organisation.
A few weeks later Hussain married a second wife, a 23-year-old Syrian woman from Raqqa. The wives are thought to have lived in the same building on al-Nour street, in a downtown Raqqa neighbourhood the activist described as one of the more expensive.
“All the Isil fighters have second wives,” he told the Telegraph. “Junaid’s wasn’t a Yazidi or Christian slave like most of the others though, she was a local Muslim girl as he had requested.”
It is not know how Jones felt about sharing her new husband, but messages sent from her Twitter account at the time indicate she remained committed to the marriage.
Using the pseudonym Umm Hussain al-Britani, Jones boasted on social media of how wonderful life was in the caliphate.
She encouraged followers to carry out attacks against the West while defending Isil’s beheadings and vowing to do the same.
She is believed to have recruited dozens of women to the terror group this way before her accounts were shut down.
The most recent account suggested she was living in Mosul, just over the border from Syria in northern Iraq, but activists believe it was a bid to evade intelligence services.
However in May of last year Jones is thought to have travelled with Hussain to Mosul. All the activist knew about the trip was that Hussain was there at the request of Isil’s senior leaders to “install radar technology”.
Hussain, one of the group’s most competent hackers and technologically savvy recruits, had quickly risen up the ranks.
He was suspected of being behind some of Isil’s highest-profile hacking attacks as well as the online recruiting of sympathisers in the West to carry out lone wolf-style attacks. His activities earned him a top spot on America’s kill list, only below Isil’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and “Jihadi John” Mohammed Emwazi.
The US had been keeping track of his movements, and in August 2015 he was killed in a drone strike on his car.
His death was a major loss to the terror group, but perhaps a bigger one for Jones. While the younger wife has since remarried, the 47-year-old remains single.
“Umm Hussain did not marry again as she is considered old and Isil fighters prefer young girls,” the activist told the Telegraph.
In February this year she is said to have moved with Joe into an apartment on al-Thakna street in southern Raqqa, sharing a building with the families of a French and an Uzbek fighter.
Following Hussain’s death she was put in charge of training all European female recruits, or “muhajirat”.
She has been entrusted with leading the secretive female wing of the Anwar al-Awlaki battalion, a unit founded by her late husband that is composed solely of foreign fighters with the purpose of planning and executing attacks in the West.
The group takes its name from the American al-Qaeda leader and recruiter killed by a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
She taught the women how to use weapons, fight, and how carry out “suicide missions against Western targets”.
Jones is thought to receive a monthly salary from Isil of $700 (£520), plus a bonus of $300 every few months for being the widow of a respected “shahid”, or martyr.
According to the activist she has become “more violent” since Hussain’s death, which only intensified her hatred of the West.
A Syrian Isil defector living near Gaziantep confirmed her role.
“Isil respects her because she is the widow of Junaid, who was very important to the group,” said the former fighter, who gave his name only as Abu Rahman.
“They want to send a message to their important fighters that they will respect their families and guarantee a good life for them after their death.
“Umm Hussain is also influential in her own right. She was the reason Isil was able to recruit a lot of Western girls to Raqqa: it’s not easy to convince a Christian, rock girl to become an extremist.”
She is thought to be one of the only women to have taken a leadership role within Isil aside from Umm Sayyaf, the Iraqi wife of the terror group’s onetime financier.
Michael S. Smith II, a counter-terrorism adviser to members of the US Congress who is writing a book on the Isil’s external operations, told the Telegraph he had long suspected she was more than just a jihadi bride.
“Earlier this year, Sally Jones implied to me (on social media) she may be training female terrorists for deployment to execute attacks in the West.
“It is unsurprising that the Islamic State may be grooming female terrorists,” he added. “The deployment of female fighters and suicide bombers, notably women whose male family members died while waging jihad, became a common occurrence after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi organised the group now called the Islamic State.”
Last Sunday French police foiled an attack in central Paris, which they said was planned by Europe’s first all-female Islamic State cell.
Three women, led by 19-year-old Ines Madani, were arrested after a car filled with gas cylinders was found abandoned near Notre Dame cathedral.
Madani had tried several times to travel to Syria but was stopped by French intelligence services.
It is not yet clear if there is a direct link with Jones, but prosecutor Francois Molins said the cell was being guided by Isil members in Syria and showed that the group “intends to make women into fighters”.
Jones has also enrolled son Joe at Ashbal (lion cub) camp for boys under the age of 14, located in Tabqa, a town to the west of Raqqa which has an air base.
He is believed to have joined shortly after he turned 11 in December.
The children, who are taught in Arabic, English and French, learn Isil’s interpretation of sharia as well as how to use weapons so they can one day join fighters on the battlefield.
Raqqa activists believe around 15 other British children are being trained in the camps, although they could not be sure of their identities as they are given nom-de-guerres.
“They are told lies and are shown fake pictures of massacres, which they say were carried out by Western countries against Muslims,” he told the Telegraph. “By the time they leave they are completely brainwashed.”
A young British boy appeared in an Isil propaganda video last month.
The smiling blue-eyed child appeared in army fatigues, holding a gun and standing over a kneeling prisoner in an orange jumpsuit before shooting him in the head.
The scene was reminiscent of the Jihadi John executions which took place over the autumn of 2014, except in this case the killer’s face was not masked by a balaclava.
“Isil wants another famous Briton to boost their credentials,” the activist said. “Especially after the death of Emwazi.”
Joe’s grandparents are reported to have recognised him in the footage, although there has been no official confirmation of the child’s identity.
A person posing as Jones on Twitter over the weekend denied the boy was her son, saying it was another “brave” cub of the caliphate.
“By the way my son collects grenades now, not bugs. Alhamdulillah (praise God) for getting my beautiful boy to the Islamic State,” the account posted before it was suspended.
The activists estimate there are between 3,000-3,500 Isil fighters left in the city of some 300,000 residents; 1,200 of them non-Syrian Arabs and 400-500 foreigners.
Fighters have already sent their families to the surrounding countryside in preparation for a much-vaunted offensive to retake the city.
“I do not think they will fight hard to protect Raqqa though,” the activist said. “The city is only important in the media, but really places like Deir Ezzor and Al-Bukamal (in the south-east of Syria on the Jordan border) are more important to the group,” said the activist, who has not left the city since April last year as he said it has become too dangerous.
Isil still carries out public beheadings and amputations in the main square at least twice a week, he said. There are 12 prisons in and around the city, one of which is full of defectors.
Scores have left the caliphate in recent months, disillusioned by the group’s mounting losses.
While escape has been possible for some local fighters, it has become increasingly difficult for the Europeans after Turkey all-but closed its once porous border and struck a deal with the EU to curb the flow of migrants earlier this year.
Residents say life in the city is tough food is scarce and with no refineries the water has become undrinkable.
“There have been many cases of poisoning from the contaminated water,” one resident who gave her name as Umm Wassim told the Telegraph. “I had to ask my family outside Syria to send us $500 to buy a water filter so we didn’t die of thirst.”
She says there is very little support for Isil now in Raqqa, where the group once enjoyed some, albeit limited, sympathy.
“I’d say only two per cent of the population here are happy under Isil, but they are the rare few who benefit financially from their rule,” she said. “Most of us are just waiting for the city to be liberated and to escape this hell.”