Three UK schoolgirls may have flown out to join IS
LONDON: Three schoolgirls have fled the UK in a feared bid to
travel to Syria and join the brutal Islamic State (IS).
Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and an un-named 15-year-old,
all from east London, flew to Istanbul, in Turkey, from Gatwick Airport on
Tuesday without leaving any messages behind for family or friends.
Scotland Yard detectives urgently appealed for information
about the missing girls, who all go to the Bethnal Green Academy School and
were described as ‘straight-A students’.
Commander Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan Police’s
counter terror command, said the runaways are good friends with another
15-year-old girl who fled to Syria in December.
He said the force was becoming “increasingly concerned” by a
growing trend of young girls showing an interest or intent in joining IS, an
organisation now notorious for its barbaric treatment of hostages and
oppression of women.
Walton added the teenager’' families were ‘devastated’ but
there was a ‘good chance” the girls were still in Turkey. “We are extremely
concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with
information to come forward and speak to police," he said.
“Our priority is the safe return of these girls to their
families. We are reaching out to the girls using the Turkish media and social
media in the hope that Shamima, Kadiza and their friend hear our messages, hear
our concerns for their safety and have the courage to return now, back to their
families who are so worried about them.”
He continued, “We are concerned about the numbers of girls
and young women who have or are intending to travel to the part of Syria that
is controlled by the terrorist group calling themselves Islamic State. It is an
extremely dangerous place and we have seen reports of what life is like for
them and how restricted their lives become.
“It is not uncommon for girls or women to be prevented from
being allowed out of their houses or if allowed out, only when accompanied by a
guardian. The choice of returning home from Syria is often taken away from
those under the control of Islamic State, leaving their families in the UK
devastated and with very few options to secure their safe return.
“If we are able to locate these girls whilst they are still
in Turkey we have a good possibility of being able to bring them home to their
Shamima is described as approximately 5ft 7in, and wearing
black thick rimmed glasses, a black hijab, light brown and black leopard print
scarf, dark red jumper, black trousers and jacket, carrying a dark blue
cylindrical shape holdall with white straps.
She is a British national of Bangladeshi heritage and speaks
English with a London accent. She also speaks Bengali.
Kadiza is described as 5ft 6in and of slim build. She was
wearing black rimmed glasses, a long black jacket with a hood, grey striped
scarf, grey jumper, dark red trousers, carrying a black holdall.
She is also a British national of Bangladeshi heritage and
speaks English with a London accent and also speaks Bengali.
The third missing girl, who is not being named, is described
as 5ft 6in and of slim build, wearing black thick rimmed glasses, black head
scarf, long dark green jacket with fur lined hood, light yellow long sleeved
top, black trousers, white trainers carrying a black Nike holdall. She speaks
They are all believed to have mobile phones, Walton added. The
three girls left their homes before 8am on Tuesday providing their families with
"plausible" reasons as to why they would be out for the day.
They boarded a Turkish Airlines flight, TK1966, which
departed at 12.40 to Istanbul, Turkey and landed at 18:40 local time. Turkish
Airlines did not notify police that the girls were on board the flight.
Shamima and the third girl were reported missing to police by
their families later that evening when they did not return home. Kadiza was
reported missing by her family on Wednesday morning.
A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets council said: "The council
fully supports the appeal issued today by the police for information that will
help to find the three students from Bethnal Green Academy in east London.
"We are working closely with the police, school and
community groups to that end.
"If parents have concerns that they wish to discuss as a
result of this issue, please contact the police, children's social care
services, talk to staff at your children's school or to other members of your