Mother’s plea to missing daughter

Published: Wednesday 1st October 2014 by The News Editor

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The mother of a missing schoolgirl feared to be heading to Syria after becoming radicalised online has made an emotional plea for her to “please, please come back”.

Yusra Hussien, 15, has made no contact with her “heartbroken” family since leaving their home in Easton, Bristol, for school last Wednesday.

The grade A* student is thought to have met up with a 17-year-old girl from London and boarded a plane to Turkey, where they are thought to be trying to cross the border with the war-torn state.

It is unclear how the teenagers, who are both from Somali families, met but they both vanished from their home last week amid concerns they had been radicalised.

Yusra’s mother, Safiya, speaking for the first time since her daughter’s disappearance, wept as she begged the schoolgirl to return to Britain in an emotional press conference.

“Yusra, I am your mum, I love you,” Mrs Hussien, supported by Yusra’s aunts Sucdi Ali and Ikram Mohamed, said. “Please, please, please, we miss you, come back.

“I love you so much. All your brothers and your sister miss you so, so much. The house is not the same when you left.

“Please, please – look at me.”

Family friends previously said they believed Yusra, who wears a hijab as part of her faith, had become radicalised on chat rooms and forums online.

However, in a statement her mother and father Mohammed Hussien described her as a “typical teenager” and said nothing had been proven.

“Our family is very heartbroken and we are struggling to come to terms with this situation,” they said.

“The pain that we as parents feel, at not knowing her safety, is very distressing, and is something we believe every parent can relate too.

“There have been many assumptions and speculations claiming that Yusra is travelling to Syria, that she maybe an extremist, or that she is planning to become a jihadist bride all of which have not as of yet been proved with any concrete evidence.”

Mrs Hussien added: “Please dear Yusra, I love and I miss you, my heart is torn, and I want you home as soon as possible.”

Her husband added: “Yusra, I’m not angry, I just want you to be safe. Please come back. We are working with the police to find you and we are praying to God that we will find you safe and bring you back home.”

The family also echoed calls for action over the role of border officials in preventing children from flying abroad without their parents.

David Hanson, shadow immigration minister, said: ” There are questions to be asked about whether the Border Force should have intervened on seeing a single minor travel unaccompanied and whether more checks should be undertaken.

“The border should be made stronger and exit checks should be the norm.”

Yusra’s aunt, Sucdi Ali, said the family were “not here to talk about Isis” but said the issue of how she was able to board a plane needed to be examined.

“That is something that our Government, our security needs to work on – a child travelling on a school day,” Miss Ali said.

“That is something that needs to be (looked at) in the future, not only for Yusra but for our future children that are here.

“We have a teenage girl missing, we don’t know where she is, that’s the point here. A 15-year-old girl is missing from our family. If she’s in danger, we have no clue.

“We are a Muslim family, we do things that need to be done but we are not here to talk about Isis, we are here to talk about Yusra.”

Miss Ali said the family’s last conversation with their daughter was on Tuesday night but there was “nothing” that indicated she was planning to leave.

“It was on Tuesday evening, when she told them she was going to bed and that she was going to sleep and school tomorrow morning just like any 15-year-old girl,” she said.

“Yusra is a typical teenage girl who was born and raised in a Western country.”

Yusra left for school at the City Academy, Bristol, as usual on the morning of her disappearance but was not there when her father went to collect her that afternoon.

Officers are investigating whether she and the 17-year-old travelled together from Heathrow Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on their way to Syria.

The girls’ disappearance follows that of twins Zahra and Salma Halane, 16, from Manchester, who are thought to have travelled to Syria in July.

British authorities have removed the passports of 25 Britons attempting to reach the Middle Eastern state, while 103 people have been arrested in relation to terrorism there.

Of those arrested, 24 have been charged and five convicted.

Chief Superintendent Jon Reilly, Bristol’s district commander, of Avon and Somerset Police, said the force would not be commenting on Yusra’s disappearance further.

“The investigation’s priority remains finding Yusra and bringing her back to the UK as soon as we can,” he said.

The search for the missing girls is now being handled by the South East Counter Terrorism unit.

“Officers are providing support to both families and are working to identify where they are and encourage them to return home safely,” a spokesman said.

“Travelling to Syria is extremely dangerous and anyone who is considering travelling to the region is putting themselves at great risk.

“We urge anyone who is concerned about someone planning on travelling to Syria to contact police and get access to the support available.

“Our aim is to not criminalise young people, it is to prevent tragedies.”

Published: Wednesday 1st October 2014 by The News Editor

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