Schoolgirls among 60 female Britons have joined Isis in Syria
ISTANBUL: Sixty British
women and girls, including 18 teenagers, are believed to have travelled to
Syria to join Islamic State (Isis) militants, the UK’s top counter-terrorism
police officer has said.
commissioner Helen Ball, senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism,
revealed that about five of them are 15–16. The figures came as fresh CCTV
images emerged of three London schoolgirls who secretly caught a flight to
Istanbul after slipping out of their homes last month.
Shamima Begum, 15, was
pictured with Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, on the Turkish leg
of their trip before they were feared to have crossed the border into Syria.
The grainy footage
shows them waiting at Bayrampaşa bus station, in a suburb of the city, after
landing on a Turkish Airlines flight from Gatwick airport on 17 February.
The girls, all pupils
at Bethnal Green Academy in east London, are shown wearing hooded winter coats
as they wait for a bus in snowy conditions.
Five CCTV images show
them between 8.27pm local time (18.27 GMT) on 17 February and 1.22pm (11.22
GMT) on 18 February after they reportedly waited 18 hours at the station.
On 24 February, a week
after the girls left their homes, Scotland Yard said they were believed to have
entered Syria. It is thought they were smuggled into the country, large swaths
of which are controlled by Isis, near the Kilis border crossing.
Speaking on the BBC’s
Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Ball said police were getting increasingly
concerned about the growing trend of young women planning to make the
treacherous journey from Britain – many of whom are disguised to avoid
“This is a growing
problem and it’s one of real concern. The more everybody involved in travel can
be alert and be vigilant and look out for people the better,” she said.
“There’s a new police
power to remove someone’s passport if we are concerned they might be travelling
for terrorist activity – we have used that already.
“But mostly this is
about vigilance of everyone who is working in the industry … some of those
women and girls are very carefully prepared for their travel so that they don’t
stand out. They take unusual routes and it is very hard to spot them.”
Turkish Airlines and UK
border agencies have been criticised for failing to stop the three girls from
travelling on a now well-worn route to Isis in Syria.