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Case of Syria-bound UK girls could be better handled: Scotland Yard

world Updated: Mar 09, 2015 01:14 IST
Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard has admitted that they could have handled better the case of the three runaway schoolgirls, believed to have joined IS extremists in Syria, after the teenage girls' families criticised the police for not passing on vital information to them.

The girls' families say the Metropolitan Police did not tell them that a friend of the girls was already in Syria. The families said they might have been able to intervene if they had known one of the girls' friends was already in Syria and police had spoken to the trio about it.

Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16 -- who left their London homes last month -- were given a letter by the police for their parents, but the girls never passed on the letters to their families. The force admitted it could have given letters about the case directly to the parents rather than via the girls. A spokesperson for the Met Police said yesterday: "We now understand that these letters were not passed on in every case. With the benefit of hindsight, we acknowledge that the letters could have been delivered direct to the parents."

"All the teenagers were all being co-operative, they were all being treated as potential witnesses and there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that they themselves were planning to travel to Syria," police said. After the trio's friend - a fellow student at Bethnal Green Academy - had gone missing in December, the girls were among seven spoken to by police at the school as potential witnesses.

The Met said the deputy head teacher had contacted the girls' families directly to inform them that their friend was missing. However, she did not tell them that the girl was believed to be in Syria - as the Met initially indicated, before issuing a clarification.

The families say that if they had known where the girls' friend was, then they could have taken steps to intervene with their own plans. Kadiza's cousin, Fahmida Aziz, said: "I think it's absolutely crazy for an authority like a school or the police not to inform the parents.

"They kept us in the dark." The three girls, students at the Bethnal Green Academy school, are believed to have joined Islamic State in Syria last month, having initially flown to Turkey from London on February 17.