Alert over Syria-bound schoolgirls

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Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Detectives have appealed for help to find three schoolgirls they fear are travelling to war-torn Syria.

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana,16, and unnamed 15-year-old, all from east London, travelled to Istanbul from Gatwick Airport on February 17.

Counter-terrorism Command Commander Richard Walton said: “We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to police. Our priority is the safe return of these girls to their families.”

The youngsters, who police fear may be heading to join terror group Islamic State, are all pupils at the same school and are close friends, police said.

They were last seen at their homes on Tuesday morning when they gave their families “plausible reasons” to be out for the day. They were reported missing later that day and on Wednesday morning.

The girls met at Gatwick where they got on a Turkish Airlines flight which landed in Turkey on Tuesday evening.

Mr Walton said: “We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to police. 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.”

Shamima is possibly travelling under the name of Aklima Begum, 17, police said. The third girl is not being named at the request of her family.

Mr Walton added: “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 families.”

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

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