Tuesday 6 December 2016

Fathers of missing children feared to be in Syria are 'crying and distraught'

Hayden Smith and Amy Murphy

Published 16/06/2015 | 10:21

The 12 missing members of the Dawood family
The 12 missing members of the Dawood family

Children feared to have been taken by three sisters to Syria told their fathers they "can't wait to come home" during their last conversation before they went missing, the family's lawyer has revealed.

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Khadija Dawood, 30, Sugra Dawood, 34, and Zohra Dawood, 33, whose children are aged between three and 15, went missing after going on an Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia from their homes in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Speaking in Bradford this morning, Balaal Hussain Khan, a lawyer acting for the fathers of the missing children, said: "We've had no answers whatsoever, we don't know what's happened."

He said the fathers last spoke to their children on June 8.

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Undated handout comp of photos issued by Khan Solicitors of Sugra Dawood (left) with her children (left to right) Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal who are 12 members of the same family who are feared to have travelled to war-torn Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday June 15, 2015. See PA story POLICE Syria. Photo credit should read: Khan Solicitors/PA Wire
NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout comp of photos issued by Khan Solicitors of Sugra Dawood (left) with her children (left to right) Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal who are 12 members of the same family who are feared to have travelled to war-torn Syria. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday June 15, 2015. See PA story POLICE Syria. Photo credit should read: Khan Solicitors/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

He said: "The fathers are understandably quite distraught. One can imagine, not seeing their children for three weeks or so.

"The last conversation with their children was when they were in Medina on the 8th. They said 'We love you, we're missing you, we can't wait to come home'.

"They have been distraught, crying, they don't know what to do."

Read more here: Fears grow for safety of three British sisters believed to have travelled to Syria with their nine children to join extremists  

Mr Khan said he could not confirm reports that the family were under police surveillance before they travelled to Saudi Arabia.

West Yorkshire Police today declined to confirm or deny the reports.

The solicitor added that the children's fathers were happy for the trip to take place.

Mr Khan said the fathers are appealing for anyone who may be able to help trace the family to come forward.

"They are just appealing for further information," he said.

"If there are any friends of the wives or even the children who might have known about this trip, where they are going or if there has been any contact with anyone other than the family members, w are quite keen on you contacting either the police, my firm or the family directly."

Read more here: Fears family of three sisters and nine children have fled to join Islamic State  

Mr Khan said the last sighting of the family was at the hotel in Medina.

There have been no confirmed sightings since that point, although travel agents have confirmed that 10 tickets were bought for a flight from Medina to Istanbul.

It is not known if the family boarded the flight or if the two children who were unaccounted for are still with the rest of their family.

Mr Khan said he had asked for CCTV footage from Medina and from Turkey.

He said: "Ten out of the 12 have been accounted for. We don't know what's happened to the other two so there's a lot of unanswered questions as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned as well.

"How the tickets were purchased, why they were purchased, how they got the visas - it's those questions we want answering."

Mr Khan said the 15-year-old boy was acting as the family's mahram - an appropriate male responsible for the family - during the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

He also confirmed that the husband of one of the women is in Pakistan.

Bradford West Labour MP Naz Shah said she had spoken to two of the children's fathers and described them as "confused", adding that they had had no contact with the women or children.

She told the BBC: "I asked them if there was any indication and they said absolutely not - it was a shock to them, it came out of the blue.

"The men are very, very distraught. They are confused and did not know what was happening or why it was happening.

"At this time there is no contact, absolutely zero contact with the women or children. The last contact was a few days ago when they were due to leave."

The Dawood sisters travelled to Medina with their nine children on May 28 to go on a religious pilgrimage.

The children are believed to have flown with their mothers from Medina in Saudi Arabia to Istanbul - a commonly used route into Syria.

They were due to return to the UK on June 11, but broke off all contact with their family in Britain two days earlier on June 9.

Preliminary inquiries suggest that at least 10 members of the family boarded the flight to Turkey that day.

Since then, the family's mobile phones have been turned off and Facebook and WhatsApp profiles have not been updated.

Mr Khan has said it is understood the sisters have a relative fighting for either Islamic State (IS) or another extremist group in Syria, and it is feared they have met up with him.

He identified the missing children are five-year-old Muhammad Haseeb; Maryam Siddiqui, seven; Ismaeel Iqbal, three; Mariya Iqbal, five; Zaynab Iqbal, eight; Ibrahim Iqbal, 14; Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, 15; Haafiyah Binte Zubair, eight; and five-year-old Nurah Binte Zubair.

Meanwhile, there are mounting calls for action to tackle the radicalisation of teenagers online after 17-year-old Talha Asmal, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was reported to have become Britain's youngest suicide bomber.

And Thomas Evans, a Muslim convert from Buckinghamshire, is believed to have died in Kenya fighting for extremist group Al Shabaab.

In relation to the missing family, West Yorkshire Police said inquiries are continuing "on a national and international level".

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