Man held for allegedly helping British schoolgirls cross into Syria

A man has been detained for allegedly helping three British schoolgirls cross into Syria, Turkey's foreign minister has said.

The man worked for the intelligence services of a country in the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS), Mevlut Cavusoglu is quoted by Turkish media saying.

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase, all students at Bethnal Green academy in east London, fled the UK last month to reportedly join IS.

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Police: 22 young girls have left for Syria in past 12 months

An estimated 22 young girls have left to join Islamic State militants in the last 12 months, MPs have heard.

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said officers had to consider whether they had left for reasons of terrorism, or whether they were being exploited.

Our primary aim has been to prevent terrorism.

We are trying to stop people - generally young men, but not only young men - leaving to become terrorists in Syria, or Iraq. That has been our principle aim.

This latest surge of girls and young women leaving - I think we need to have an open mind about the purpose of them leaving - is it for terrorism, or is it because they are victims.

– Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

MPs heard that over the past year 87 families had come forward to report missing people suspected of travelling to Syria.

Of these, 26 were women and 61 of the 87 were under the age of 21.

Met Police chief apologises to Syria runaway girls' families

London's chief of police has apologised to the families of three girls who ran away to Syria that a letter warning them of the risk of radicalisation did not reach them as intended.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe apologised to the girls' families

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said:

I'm sorry that [the families] are in this situation, and I'm also sorry that the letter we intended to get to them didn't get through. Clearly, that failed. It was intended for them, and it failed, and for that of course we are sorry.

– Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

He said the girls were only spoken to as part of an investigation into another girl who went to Syria, and said neither the trio's family, the police, nor the school realised they planned to join her.


'Not enough' done to highlight warning signs of radicalisation

Not enough is being done to let parents and families know the warning signs of radicalisation, MPs have been told.

The families gave evidence to MPs

Abase Hussein, the father of one of the three girls who ran away to join Islamic State militants in Syria, said he still would not recognise the signs, even after his experience.

Sahmina Begum and Fahmida Aziz both agreed, and said they felt the responsibility should like with schools as the "most trusted" source of information.

Mystery over how girls paid for £1k flights to Turkey

There was "no sign" that three girls had been radicalised before they ran away to join Islamic State militants in Syria - and no clue as to how they paid to travel there, MPs have heard.

The families of the three schoolgirls who disappeared together said they did not see any noticeable change in behaviour - not their religious devotion, everyday behaviour nor use of social media.

Fahmida Aziz, cousin of 16-year-old Kadiza Sultana, said they were also at a loss to explain how they got hold of the money to pay for the flights to Turkey, which would have cost more than £1,000.

MPs at the Home Affairs Select Committee also heard that after the first girl ran away, risk assessments should have been done on the seven girls believed to be at risk - but this was not done, and still has not been done on two younger sisters of the girls, who attend the same school.

Girl felt 'harrassed' by police after radicalisation interview

One of the other girls interviewed by police concerned about radicalisation felt she was being "harrassed" by police, MPs have heard.

She was one of seven spoken to in December after one of their classmates left to join Islamic State militants in Syria, after which warning letters were given to the girls to pass on to their families.

Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum, and Amira Abase flew to Turkey two weeks ago.

Three of the girls - Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 - hid the letters instead of passing them on, and subsequently followed in their fellow pupil's footsteps.

Sahmina Begum, sister of runaway Shamima, said the "fourth girl" had been friends with her sister but had not known the first girl, and had complained that police were "harrassing" her.

MPs heard that the missing letters could have played a "critical" role in stopping the three girls leaving.

Warning letters 'terrified' girls who ran away to Syria

Warning letters given to the families of three girls who ran away to join Islamic State militants in Syria may have triggered their departure, a spokesman for the family has told MPs.

The father of one the girls, Abase Hussein told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the letter "terrified" his daughter Amina.

Abase Hussein said the letter 'terrified' his daughter

Tasnime Akunjee, a solicitor for the families, they were considering the possibility that the letters - which asked the girls to "rat on" their friends - may have prompted them to step up existing plans, or even to develop the plans completely.

Mr Abase added that he believed the letters warning families that they were at risk of radicalisation was a "heavy burden" to place on a young girl.

I strongly disagree that the letter should be given to 15-year-old young girls because the word police by itself, terrorism, a heavy burden. We feel that we, as a parent, have been neglected.

As I know my daughter, it is difficult to say why they left this country. We are left in the middle of nowhere.

The letter terrified my daughter.

– Abase Hussein, father


Families: 'No idea' Syria runaways linked to radicalisation

The families of three girls who ran away from their London homes have told MPs they had "no idea" that they had been involved in any kind of radicalisation.

Sahima Begum said her sister Shamima, 15, was into "normal teenage" things, including watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Abase Hussein, father of Amira Abase also repeated his belief that had a letter warning the families of the risk of radicalisation reached them directly, rather than being handed to the girls to pass on, they would have been able to try to stop them leaving.

Families of schoolgirls who ran away to Syria speak to MPs

The family of three girls who ran away to join Islamic State militants are appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The families are appearing before MPs today

Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase travelled from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul last month.

Describing it as "every parents' nightmare", committee chairman Keith Vaz offered the families "best wishes and support" as they have evidence on the disappearance of the girls.

Police: Letters should have been sent direct to parents

Police admitted today that they should have communicated more directly with the families of three missing London schoolgirls who are believed to have run away to Syria to join Islamic State.

The families of Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase said police failed to warn them that their daughters were in danger of being radicalised as a letter warning of the threat was not sent directly to them but given to the girls to take home.

The girls are believed to have hidden the letters in their textbooks while plotting their escape to Syria.

Police said: "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. However, the parents were already aware from the deputy head that the 15-year-old girl had travelled to Syria."

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