21 Feb 2015

Families urge missing girls not to go to ‘dangerous Syria’

The families of Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana, who police fear is travelling to Syria with two other girls, say they are “extremely worried” and “completely distressed”.

Police believe Shamima Begum, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are travelling to Syria to join Islamic State extremists with and an un-named 15-year-old friend.

The trio are believed to be in Turkey, having boarded a flight from Gatwick airport on Tuesday. Police say the girls are “extremely vulnerable”.

In a statement, Shamima’s family said: “Syria is a dangerous place and we don’t want you to go there.

“Get in touch with the police and they will help to bring you home. You are not in any trouble.

“We understand that you have strong feelings and want to help those you believe are suffering in Syria. You can help from home, you don’t have to put yourself in danger. Please don’t cross the border.

“Please come home to us. Our Mum needs you home and is really worried. We are not mad at you, we love you.”

The family of Kadiza Sultana said that they were “completely distressed” by her disappearance.

“We cannot make sense of why you left home. Due to the speculation that you may be travelling towards Syria, we are extremely worried about your safety,” the family said in a statement.

“We would like to emphasise that we are not angry with you and you have not done anything wrong. We just want you all to return home, safe and sound.

“We miss you terribly, especially Mum, and things have not been the same without you.”

The schoolgirls are all from east London where they attended Bethnal Green Academy. They were last seen at their homes on Tuesday morning when they gave their families “plausible reasons” to be out for the day.

A 15-year-old girl who fled to Syria in December is believed to be friends with the runaways and also attended Bethnal Green Academy.

On Saturday, David Cameron urged schools to recognise their role in the “fight against Islamist extremist terror”.

The prime minister said that the disappearance of the schoolgirls showed that “the fight against Islamist extremist terror is not just one that we can wage by the police and border control.

“It needs every school, every university, every college, every community to recognise they have a role to play.

“We all have a role to play in stopping people from having their minds poisoned by this appalling death cult.”

Mr Cameron said the trio’s disappearance was “deeply concerning” and said that “we all have a role to play in stopping people from having their minds poisoned by this appalling death cult.”

The three schoolgirls are the latest in a number of cases of young British women travelling to Syria to join Islamic State extremists. In October last year, Home Secretary Theresa May said that she had removed the passports of 25 Britons trying to get to Syria.

In September, the parents of 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood from Glasgow made a plea for their daughter to return home. She is believed to have travelled to Syria and married an IS fighter, after becoming increasingly radicalised watching the Middle East crisis unfold.