Syria girls ‘liked teenage things’

Published: Tuesday 10th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Relatives of three schoolgirls who fled to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) have told MPs they had no idea the teenagers had been radicalised.

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase flew from Gatwick to Istanbul on February 17 and are feared to have continued to Syria to become so-called “jihadi brides” with IS militants.

Appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, Amira’s father Hussen Abase, Khadija’s cousin Fahmida Aziz and Shamima’s sister Sahima Begum said there were no indications the girls had been radicalised.

Responding to a question from Committee chair Keith Vaz, Sahima said: “My sister was into normal teenage things. She used to watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

Family solicitor Tasnime Akunjee told the committee the Metropolitan Police owes the parents an apology over the way a similar case was handled last year.

It has emerged that police gave the three schoolgirls – as well as four other girls – letters addressed to their families about another 15-year-old fellow pupil at Bethnal Green Academy who joined Islamic State in December.

However, the girls did not pass the letters on to their families, prompting questions over why it was not delivered directly to their parents.

Mr Akunjee said had the parents received the letter they would have been “on notice” for issues like radicalisation and foreign travel.

Sahima said she and her family “did what they could” to monitor Shamima’s activities.

However, she added they would have done more had they known the first girl – a friend of Shamima’s – had gone to Syria.

“We would have questioned that,” she said.

Shamima’s sister Sahima said she was not aware of the Government’s anti-radicalisation programme Prevent before her sister went missing.

She said her sister should have been given a risk assessment under the Prevent strategy when she was interviewed about her friend going missing last December.

Scotland Yard previously said that, ”with the benefit of hindsight”, letters addressed to seven girls’ families could have been delivered directly to their parents.

The force claimed today that the parents had already been made aware by the school’s deputy head that the 15-year-old girl had gone to Syria.

But it later issued a clarification stating that the deputy head merely told the families that the girl had gone missing.

Published: Tuesday 10th March 2015 by The News Editor

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