A B.C. woman who returned home from Syria last year was part of the all-female battalion of the Islamic State, according to RCMP allegations unsealed on Tuesday.
Kimberly Polman served in the Katibah Nusaybah, an ISIS branch that provided weapons training to women, the RCMP wrote in a report summarizing its investigation.
The 122-page police report, obtained by Global News, said Katibah Nusaybah trained Polman “to fight physically and with weapons,” before she was assigned to an ISIS medical unit.
She also helped move weapons for ISIS, was an informant for its secret police and married two members of the group, most recently a builder of explosive devices, the RCMP alleged.
The RCMP additionally alleged the 51-year-old belonged to the Sexy Seniors, older women who “were dedicated to the cause, and did many jobs for ISIS, because they did not have young families to care for.”
The details of the investigation, called Project Stiletto, were filed in B.C. provincial court on Oct. 27, 2022, after Global Affairs Canada flew Polman home from a prison camp in northeast Syria.
The allegations are the first comprensive look inside an investigation into the Canadian women of ISIS, but they could not be reported until a judge ruled on the RCMP’s application for a terrorism peace bond for Polman.
A judge in Chilliwack, B.C. ordered the peace bond on Tuesday. It places restrictions on Polman in the name of public safety for eight months. She has not been charged with any crimes.
Canadian woman detained in Syria says she accepts she could face prosecution
Polman has publicly portrayed herself as a victim who was lured to Syria by a man she met online, and realized her mistake upon arriving in ISIS territory.
In a letter to Canadians, she wrote she was an “innocent woman” who only wanted to help children and “ended up with bad people.”
But the RCMP depicted her as manipulative, and said those close to her had described her as a “pathological liar.”
“Contrary to the narrative currently being propagated by Polman to journalists — that she was a naive and anti-ISIS captive in Syria — information collected by investigators suggests that Polman was an ISIS adherent and supporter,” it said.
“Furthermore, Polman was well aware of what ISIS was before she entered Syria.”
She not only carried a firearm and knife, but also “handled and transported guns for the benefit of ISIS,” wrote the RCMP, which said Polman’s children feared she could turn violent once back in Canada.
“Ms. Polman’s own son told investigators he would not be surprised if she strapped a bomb to her chest.”
The RCMP said she told her family she did not go to Syria for her husband. “Ms. Polman went there for herself,” a Crown prosecutor alleged at her bail hearing.
According to the allegations, she believed Syria was “God’s plan for her.”
A mother of three from B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Polman converted to Islam following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequently entered into a series of marriages to men from Saskatchewan to Kuwait.
In mid-2014, family and friends noticed her becoming “more radical” and expressing support for ISIS, the Crown alleged. She sought out “radical Islamic ideology,” and pursued “the teachings of radical imams,” the Crown told the court.
Through online chat groups, she connected with ISIS members, and in September 2014, wed a Somali ISIS fighter in his mid-20s who was raised in Kenya and educated in Malaysia.
A month later, when a Libyan-Canadian killed a soldier at the war memorial in Ottawa, Polman “dismissed” the attack to her son, police alleged.
Her son also said she defended ISIS when it put a captured Jordanian pilot into a cage and burned him alive, adding she was “a fan of the actions.”
Before leaving for Syria, she asked a close friend to join her, saying they would build a “utopia,” but the friend refused, the police report alleged.
To finance her trip, Polman obtained food gift cards from the National Zakat Fund, a Muslim charity. She then sold them to her son, the RCMP alleged.
On July 21, 2015, Polman left Vancouver airport for Vienna. She travelled without her usual headscarf, which the Crown alleged was an attempt to “hide her true intentions.”
From Austria, she flew to Turkey, where ISIS smuggled her into Raqqah, the ISIS capital in Syria. A friend in Canada told police Polman had subsequently phoned to say she had pledged allegiance to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“You live in the land of disbelievers,” she allegedly told her daughter in an Aug. 8, 2015, message. “I’m with good Muslims here. You’d love it here, you should come here.”
For the first two months, Polman lived at a guesthouse for ISIS foreign women, according to a notebook seized by the FBI and shared with the RCMP.
Polman received weapons training from the ISIS female battalion, the RCMP alleged, adding she may have also been trained on “explosive vests.”
The women’s battalion was headed by Allison Fluke-Ekren, a Muslim convert from Kansas nicknamed the Empress of ISIS.
Fluke-Ekren trained ISIS women to use AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and suicide belts, the U.S. Department of Justice said after she was sentenced to 20 years.
“Over 100 women and young girls, some as young as 10 years old, received military training from Fluke-Ekren in Syria on behalf of ISIS.”
Following training, Polman was sent to ISIS-controlled hospitals, where she “tended to wounded ISIS fighters,” the RCMP report alleged.
Her first husband, Suheib, was a member of the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab and a “soldier” in ISIS, the judge said in her decision. After injuring his back, he was assigned to the Emni, the ISIS intelligence branch.
Polman also became an informant of the Emni, according to the RCMP, which based its conclusion partly on information obtained from another Canadian ISIS woman.
“If someone said something critical of ISIS, or about wanting to leave, Polman would report that person to the Emni,” the RCMP alleged.
The Emni would then arrest and torture the person, the Canadian ISIS member (who has also now returned to Canada), told investigators.
Eighteen months into her marriage, Polman and Suheib divorced after she got upset that he had married a second wife, the RCMP alleged.
Former Calgary resident detained in Syria says ISIS wanted him to conduct attacks in North America
She then married a Trinidadian named Ali, who manufactured rockets and mines for ISIS, according to the RCMP. The Crown called him “highly dangerous.”
He is believed to be Safraz Ali, who told Global News in an interview in Syria in 2019 that ISIS had tried to recruit him for attacks in North America.
Although he claimed to have lived in Calgary, police said there was no record he had ever entered Canada.
Often downplayed as “ISIS brides,” women were central to the group’s goal of forming a state governed according to its extremist ideology, the Crown argued.
Women were needed to “produce offspring to build the caliphate,” but also to provide services such as health care, according to the Crown’s case.
“So it wasn’t as though women were secondary to the goals of ISIS or to the goal of building the caliphate,” the Crown prosecutor argued in court.
“They were central.”
One of Polman’s roles was to cook for Ali’s explosives unit, the RCMP alleged, adding she “loved” that he was in the bomb-making group and “used to brag about it.”
When Raqqah began to fall to Kurdish fighters backed by the international coalition in 2017, Polman fled with ISIS as it retreated east towards the Iraqi border.
According to the RCMP, in 2018, Polman’s family contacted an Ontario man named Sean Moore to help bring her back to Canada.
Moore, who calls himself a humanitarian and had visited northern Iraq during the war against ISIS, told police Polman had asked if he could bring Ali to Canada with her, the RCMP alleged.
To police, it was concerning that Polman was trying to import “a clear threat to Canada’s public safety.”
On Jan. 20, 2019, Polman and Ali were arrested by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, along with thousands of other foreign nationals who were taken to prisons and detention camps.
Even while she was detained, Polman “maintained contact” with pro-ISIS elements in Canada, according to the allegations.
Polman and Ali allegedly communicated with “ISIS supporters in Canada who said they were interested in ‘doing something’ in Canada.”
Investigators spoke to Polman’s family and friends, who said she should not be trusted.
“Each of Polman’s relatives described Polman as mentally unstable, and potentially mentally ill, however, investigators have been unable to confirm the extent and nature of her mental health.”
“Further, in each of their statements, Polman’s close family members have stated that Polman cannot be relied upon to tell the truth about ISIS or her intentions.”
Although Polman made repeated pleas from Syria to come back to Canada, her daughter told police to be cautious.
“My mom abandoned me to join a terrorist organization. We aren’t sure if she should really come back because she might try to blow us all up.”
Her son said, “I’d say, the best thing is to keep her locked up.”
Last October, Canada’s Global Affairs flew Polman back to Montreal. She was arrested but released to live at home in B.C. under court-ordered conditions.
Among the restrictions imposed on her Tuesday was a ban on driving. The Crown had argued it “doesn’t take a lot to kill a lot of people if you can get into a motor vehicle.”
She is one of nine women Global Affairs has helped repatriate from camps for ISIS detainees in Syria. Only two have been charged.
Polman said she had no intention of committing any crimes, and was attending counseling through the de-radicalization program Shift B.C.