Heila al-Qusayyer is being called the “First Lady of Al Qaeda.” The middle class Saudi mother, now in police custody, allegedly ran a cell of 60 militants, and recruited young women to its ranks. She also raised money – as the main fundraiser for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula she used Islamic charities as a front to take donations of cash and jewelry that then went to funding jihad, or holy war.
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister called the case an alarm bell, a sign that authorites need to rethink counterterrorism strategy and monitor a whole new profile of jihadis: the middle-aged mother.
Analysts say it represents a significant change for Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.
“Females have not been real Al Qaeda operatives…in early training manuals it says what the role of women should really be and that was more functioning as nurses or supporter roles,” said Theodore Karasik of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysts, a Dubai-based think tank.