Teenage ‘poster girl’ for Islamic State beaten to death

Austrian Samra Kesinovic reportedly killed as she tried to flee jihadist-controlled city of Raqqa and return home

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Sabina Selimovic, left, and Samra Kesinovic, right. (Courtesy Interpol website)
Sabina Selimovic, left, and Samra Kesinovic, right. (Courtesy Interpol website)

A teenage Austrian girl who became a public icon for the Islamic State group was beaten to death for trying to escape the jihadist-controlled regions in Syria and return home.

Austrian newspapers Österreich and Kronen Zeitung reported this week that Samra Kesinovic, 17, was killed as she tried to slip out of Raqqa in war-torn Syria.

Kronen Zeitung cited a Tunisian woman who claimed she had lived with Kesinovic and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, but then later managed to escape from Syria.

The Austrian interior ministry has not confirmed her death.

Kesinovic and Selimovic, made headlines in April 2014 when they left their middle-class Vienna homes to join the Islamic State. After flying to Turkey, they made their way across the border into Syria.

Pictures of the two dressed in hijabs and brandishing weapons or surrounded by armed men then began circulating on social media.


In October 2014, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported that the two girls, children of Bosnian immigrants to Austria, had changed their minds and wanted to return home.

According to the report, the two were likely pregnant after being married off to fighters from the group. After months in Syria, however, the girls contacted their families and expressed their wish to return to Vienna, Austrian officials said.


Then in December 2014, Israeli David Scharia, a member of the UN’s Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate, told Ynetnews that information at the time indicated Selimovic had been killed in fighting in Syria’s civil war.

“We received information just recently about two 15-year-old girls, of Bosnian origin, who left Austria, where they had been living in recent years, and everyone, the families and the intelligence services of the two countries, is looking for them,” he said. “Both were recruited by Islamic State. One was killed in the fighting in Syria, the other has disappeared.”

Women living in areas under Islamic State control must follow strict Islamic laws and have very few rights, with numerous reports of women being sexually and physically abused by the group’s members.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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