Thursday 14 December 2017

Runaway schoolgirls are already over Syrian border

A still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of an un-named 15-year-old, Kadiza Sultana,16 and Shamima Begum,15 at Gatwick airport, they are feared to have travelled to Syria via Turkey
A still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of an un-named 15-year-old, Kadiza Sultana,16 and Shamima Begum,15 at Gatwick airport, they are feared to have travelled to Syria via Turkey
Undated handout comp of photos issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) Kadiza Sultana 16, Amira Abase 15 and Shamima Begum 15, they are feared to have travelled to Syria via Turkey

Patrick Sawer

Three British “jihadi brides” who ran away from home to join fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were believed last night to have crossed the Turkish border into Syria.

The three students, from Bethnal Green Academy in East London, were at the centre of an increasingly desperate international hunt to find them before they managed to enter territory controlled by fighters from Isil.

But intelligence sources in Turkey said Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and an unnamed 15-year-old travelled by car to the border on Friday, from where they crossed into the Isil-controlled town of Tal Abyad, in Syria.

A Turkish intelligence source last night said: “They were seen in Tal Abyad yesterday. They were travelling with a Syrian male in a private car, using Syrian identity cards.

“We understand that after arriving in Istanbul the girls met an Isil member charged with helping foreigners who want to join the group.”

The source said the girls stayed in Istanbul for two days before travelling to the border.

An Isil source in Istanbul had earlier boasted that the three girls would soon be in a position to join hundreds of its fighters in Syria, where they are waging a campaign of terror against the local population and Western targets.

He said: “They are in Istanbul and are trying to reach a town on the Turkish border to cross into Syria. There is someone coordinating with them. A smuggler. They can’t move by themselves.”

The three — described as “grade A” pupils — left their homes in London at 8am last Tuesday, travelling to Gatwick together, where they boarded a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.

To the apparent dismay of Scotland Yard neither Turkish Airlines, nor the UK Border Force reported the girls were travelling unaccompanied to the region — despite it being a well-worn route to Syria. Shamima is said to have travelled with her 17-year-old sister’s passport.

Commander Richard Walton, of the Met’s counter-terrorism command, said: “On this particular occasion we weren’t notified that these girls were travelling. If we had been notified then we might have been able to intervene.”

There have been calls for an inquiry into the effectiveness of border controls in stopping youngsters travelling to the region with the intention of joining Isil. Counter-terror experts estimate that as many as 50 young Muslim women and girls have journeyed to Syria.

Shamima, Kadiza and their friend were close to a 15-year-old girl from their school who travelled to Syria last December.

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