Mother posed toddler son in IS clothes because he 'loved wearing hats'

A mother accused of taking her toddler to Syria to join a feared terror group told a court she posed the child for photos wearing Islamic State (IS)-clothing because the boy "loved wearing hats".

Tareena Shakil, who travelled to the self-declared caliphate in October 2014, accepted she had put a black balaclava bearing the IS logo on her boy.

But she denied the move was aimed at supporting IS, pointing out that in another image her son was wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine hat.

The photograph, found on her phone, was taken in a mansion called a Maqqar where she and her boy were living with other single women in the IS capital of Raqqa, she said.

Shakil flew to Turkey in October 2014, telling family and friends she was off on holiday, but later made her way to IS territory in secret.

On the second day of her evidence at Birmingham Crown Court, Shakil freely admitted lying to loved ones about being a jihadi bride claiming she was "under pressure" from IS minders monitoring her communications back home.

Slightly-built Shakil, leaning forward in the dock to respond to prosecution barrister Sean Larkin QC's questions, said: "It's evident there's a lot of lies in there (the messages).

Mr Larkin replied: "Yes, because you're a liar.

Shakil then said: "That's what you can think."

Mr Larkin, who for the first time today was able to question Shakil on discrepancies in her account which the Crown claim show her to have been a willing IS recruit, asked if she denied telling lies.

Shakil said her account to the jury was true, adding she had only "maintained the lies" until just weeks before trial for the sake of her family's future.

Earlier, the former college student had told him: "I wasn't married at all."

Shakil, a former health worker, said she travelled to the Islamic State with her young boy to live under sharia law knowing the group had been responsible for beheadings and crucifixions.

Mr Larkin asked her: "Why did you take your child to live in the Isis headquarters in Raqqa?

Shakil, who at times smiled at Mr Larkin while answering, said: "I was taken to Raqqa, I went to go and live in the Islamic State, the caliphate - nothing to do with terrorism, jihad or Isis fighters.

The Crown's barrister said: "That was your voluntary decision, knowing that the people who were involved in all this and set this up were beheaders, crucifiers, and dragged dead bodies around (behind their vehicles)."

She responded by saying she had been wrongly convinced before leaving the UK that reports about IS atrocities were just bad press.

She has pleaded not guilty to being a member of IS and a further charge of encouraging acts of terror on social media.

Asked about a photo of her smiling son wearing an IS-branded black balaclava, she said a group of youngsters, including her toddler, had gone into a grown-ups' room to get the hat and were taking turns wearing it.

Giving her account, she said: "I said to a little boy, 'can I just put it on (my son)'?

"He loved wearing hats.

She added: "That's why he's laughing in this picture, because he likes wearing hats on his head.

"It's nothing to do with what's printed on it, even if it didn't have that (IS) logo on it, I would still have taken this picture."

Shakil, of Beechfield Road in Birmingham and formerly of Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, told jurors that soon after arriving in Raqqa she began to think of an escape.

Earlier, she gave an account of her flight from IS territory in which she caught a bus and then bribed a taxi driver to take her to the Turkish border.

Shakil returned home with her son in February 2015, when she was arrested off a flight landing at Heathrow airport.

The trial continues.