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Kin of 3 UK girls going to join IS in Syria beg them to return home

The families of three British schoolgirls feared to be travelling to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria issued emotional appeals for them to come home Saturday.

world Updated: Feb 22, 2015 14:27 IST
British schoolgirls,Islamic State,IS jihadists

The families of three British schoolgirls feared to be travelling to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria issued emotional appeals for them to come home Saturday.

Close friends Kadiza Sultana, 17, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase left their east London homes Tuesday and flew to Istanbul. Turkey is a key entry point for those seeking to travel to Syria.

Police believe the three girls — all of whom are academic high achievers — were following the example of a friend who fled to join IS jihadists in December.

British media reported that the girls had been interviewed by police about where their friend had gone but were not considered at risk of leaving the country themselves.

Abase's family agreed that she could be identified for the first time Saturday in the hope of securing her safe return.

"You are strong, smart, beautiful and we are hoping you will make the right decision," they said in a statement issued by police. "Please return home."

Sultana's family described how they were feeling "completely distressed" and that her departure had been "a complete nightmare".

"We miss you terribly, especially Mum, and things have not been the same without you," they said.

"Get in touch with the police and they will help to bring you home. You are not in any trouble," the family of 15-year-old Begum said in a statement, the BBC reported.

Begum's family added that Syria was "a dangerous place and we don't want you to go there".

"We understand that you have strong feelings and want to help those you believe are suffering in Syria," the family said. "You can help from home, you don't have to put yourself in danger."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said the disappearance of three schoolgirls is "deeply concerning". "It is deeply concerning and obviously our authorities will do everything we can to help these girls," Cameron said.

"But it does make a broader point which is the fight against Islamist extremist terror is not just one that we can wage by the police and border control.

"It needs every school, every university, every college, every community to recognise they have a role to play. We all have a role to play in stopping people from having their minds poisoned by this appalling death cult."

The Metropolitan police said they had been spoken to that month as part of the police inquiry into the previous girl's disappearance. "There was nothing to suggest at the time that the girls themselves were at risk and indeed their disappearance has come as a great surprise, not least to their own families," the Met police added.

The girls told their parents they were going out for the day, police said.

CCTV at Gatwick airport captured the girls as they passed through security, before boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. Shamima is possibly travelling under the name of her 17-year-old sister Aklima Begum, police said. The third girl is not being named at the request of her family.

Counter-terrorism experts estimate that around 50 women have travelled from Britain to Syria to join the IS group, which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Worshippers at the East London Mosque were asked during Friday night prayers to come forward if they had any information to help the girls return home safely.

First Published: Feb 22, 2015 09:55 IST