An online battle has erupted between ISIS and Al Qaeda over the role women should play in Jihad.

Referencing the role of women jihadis in recent arrests in Paris, Al Qaeda is now criticizing the Islamic State for exploiting females in carrying out terror attacks.

In a publication by Al Qaeda’s media arm Al Malahelm entitled “Inspire Guide: Comment on arresting our Muslims sisters in France,” the group urges its followers to carry out so-called “lone wolf” attacks in France but warns against the involvement of women in these attacks.

Last week, three women were arrested in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, southeast of Paris, in connection with a thwarted attack in front of the Nortre Dame Cathedral involving gas cylinders that police discovered inside a vehicle.

The women, part of a terror cell receiving instructions directly from ISIS in Syria according to the Paris prosecutor, had trouble lighting the gas cylinders and were unable to carry out the attack as planned.

“In accordance with this incident, we guide and advice our mujahedeen brothers in the west not to allow our Muslim sisters to participate in any lone jihad operation. All this, to preserve our virtuous Muslim sisters’ honor, and to perceive that our intention from jihad is, to preserve and protect the honor of our Muslim sisters from any aggressor.”

Over the weekend, three women described as “robed,” stabbed a police officer before setting fire to a police station in Mombasa, Kenya. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the first attack by the group in the East African country.

Similar guides censuring ISIS’ approach have been disseminated by Al Qaeda in recent months.

Following Omar Mateen’s attack on the Pulse nightclub, an attack claimed by ISIS, Al Qaeda published a guide lauding Mateen for the attack but suggested that whites and heterosexuals would have made for a more high profile attack. Attacks on Latinos and gays could potentially be deemed ‘hate crimes,’ the guide claimed.

And after the Bastille day ‘truck mowing’ attack in Nice that left 84 people dead, Al Qaeda issued a similar guide claiming credit for the inspiration to launch a motor vehicle ramming attack having published an article in 2010 entitled “The Ultimate Mowing Machine.”

Analysis

The deployment of women in frontline jihadi activities and the fact that they appear to be under direct command from ISIS in Syria is indicative of a broadening of the group’s recruitment strategies in the West as well as a surge in participation.

It could also point to increased scrutiny at borders as government agencies become more vigilant in stopping ISIS recruits from reaching the caliphate. ISIS has ‘modified’ parts of its recruiting approach in recent months advising jihadi wanabees that they can radicalize at home via online videos and downloadable training guides and then carry out attacks on their doorstep without having to reach the caliphate and undergo attack training.

This could, by extension, involve women as well, especially given the fact that women are not seen as hardcore ISIS combatants, and for now at least, may arouse less suspicion than men.

Previously, the Islamic State made the recruitment of women to its Caliphate a fundamental part of its growth strategy, but largely in a support capacity to male fighters. Women’s roles have been defined as playing housewife and mother, although in some instances, women have been featured in combat and policing roles.

The Al-Khansaa ‘women’s police’ Brigade is a group largely made up of foreign jihadist women from North Africa, Europe and other Persian Gulf countries, and 60 of them are believed to be from the United Kingdom.