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  1. Juliet Bremner

Criticism over delay in public hunt for Syria-bound girls

Everybody has been at pains to say that as much as possible was done. No one wants to take responsibility.

I think if there is any criticism, it was that it was three days before it was made public. They had flown out on Tuesday, and we didn't know about it until the Friday.

Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum at Gatwick Airport. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Police said at the time there were several reasons for that - the families, of course, have to give their consent, and then they have to be sure that they have tried the more direct, perhaps slightly less public, ways of getting in touch.

But it meant, of course, that as we know now, they had probably gone already by the time we were all seeing their pictures.

I'm sure the families whoa are at home tonight will be utterly distraight, and they will be the first ones to ask could they, and should they, have done more.


London schoolgirls 'believed to have crossed into Syria'

Three schoolgirls feared to have travelled from London to join Islamic State are believed to have crossed into Syria, Scotland Yard has said.

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul last Tuesday, but police say they have "reason to believe" the girls have now crossed the border into territory controlled by the extremist militants.

Scotland yard said the three girls are believed to have crossed into Syria. Credit: Met Police

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said officers were continuing to work closely with the Turkish authorities.

Anybody with information on the whereabouts of the girls is urged to call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789321.

PM: In fight against extremism, we are all in it together

Schools, parents, and communities must work together with the authorities and social media firms to tackle the problem of young people being radicalised through online propaganda, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

He made the comments in evidence to the Commons Liaison Committee after three girls went missing, feared to have fled to join Islamic State militants in Syria.

He said the problem of people looking at radicalisation material online was a "very serious problem", and added: "We are all in this together."

While he credited social media companies for taking down a great deal of extremist material, he added, they need to "do more" to help with efforts.

Met Police defend claims UK took too long to alert Turkey

Scotland Yard has responded to criticism that it took British authorities too long to alert Turkey that the three teenagers were missing and feared bound for Syria.

Once we established that the girls had travelled to Turkey, police made contact with the foreign liaison officer at the Turkish Embassy in London on Wednesday, 18 February.

Since then we have been working closely with the Turkish authorities who are providing great assistance and support to our investigation.

– Met Police spokesperson


Islamic State 'kidnap 90 Syrian Assyrian Christians'

Islamic State militants have abducted at least 90 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria, a monitor that tracks violence in Syria said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the abductions took place after dawn raids in villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Tmar, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.

The latest offensive coincides with a push by Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border since Sunday that had compounded losses for the militant group in Syria.

UK 'condemnable' for taking three days to alert Turkey

Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc in Ankara, Turkey, in May 2010. Credit: Reuters

Turkey has criticised British authorities for taking three days to alert the country over the three teenage schoolgirls believed to be on the way to Syria via Istanbul.

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase are still missing after they boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul last Tuesday - feared to be intending to join the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said that British officials would be to blame if the girls cannot be found.

He said: "It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later. They haven't taken the necessary measures.

"The search is ongoing. It would be great if we can find them. But if we can't, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British."

Britain 'will be responsible if Syria girls are not found'

The British authorities will be responsible if three London schoolgirls feared to be heading to Syria are not found, Turkey's deputy prime minister has said.

An international search is underway for Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase, who flew from London to Turkey last Tuesday.

Bulent Arinc accused the British authorities leaving it too late to inform Turkey of the girls arrival in Istanbul.

  1. Geraint Vincent

Hunt for British girls like trying to find 'needle in haystack'

There is a team of UK police officers on the ground in Turkey who are being given a great deal of assistance and support from the Turkish authorities.

But this really is a 'needle in the haystack' job now.

Even if the girls are still in Turkey - which is looking less and less likely - the country has a 500-mile border with Syria.

If you know the right people, it's pretty easy to cross; there are smuggling gangs who have got thousands of foreigners over the border since the war started.

The message from the Turkish authorities is: if you want to have any real chance of stopping foreigners getting into Syria, you've got to stop them leaving home in the first place.

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