Kadiza Sultana: Schoolgirl who joined IS feared dead

Bethnal Green teenager who ran away to Syria reportedly 'died in an air strike weeks ago'

Three British schoolgirls at Gatwick Airport
Shamima Begum and two schoolmates on CCTV at Gatwick Airport in 2015 
(Image credit: Metropolitan Police)

A London schoolgirl who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State is thought to have been killed by a Russian air strike in Raqqa, her family's solicitor said.

Kadiza Sultana was 16 when she and friends Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, left Bethnal Green in February 2015, telling their parents they were going out for the day. Instead, they travelled to Syria via Turkey.

The three girls, who were pupils at Bethnal Green Academy, were later said to have reached the IS stronghold of Raqqa, where two of them were said to have married.

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In phone calls to her sister, filmed for ITV News, Sultana said she had been married to an IS fighter who had later been killed and that she wanted to return to the UK but was "scared".

The family's solicitor, Tasnime Akunjee, told the BBC they had heard reports of Sultana's death weeks ago but had not been able to independently verify them.

The family was "devastated" and Sultana's death was a "great loss to us all", he continued, adding that Sultana had been disenchanted with what she found in Syria and had wanted to return to the UK.

He said: "The problem with that was the risk factors around leaving are quite terminal also, in that if [IS] were able to detect and capture you then their punishment is quite brutal for trying to leave.

"In the week where she was thinking of these issues, a young Austrian girl had been caught trying to leave ISIS territory and was by all reports beaten to death publicly, so - given that that was circulated in the region as well as outside - I think Kadiza took that as a bad omen and decided not to take the risk."

He added: "I think she found out pretty quickly that the propaganda doesn't match up with the reality."

The headteacher of Bethnal Green Academy, Mark Keary, said there was no evidence the three girls had been radicalised within the school and that they had not been able to access Twitter or Facebook from school computers.

Another girl from the academy is believed to have travelled to Syria in December 2014.

UK Police in Turkey to find girls 'hoping to joing Islamic State'

23 February

British police have arrived in Turkey to search for the three London schoolgirls believed to be travelling to Syria to join Islamic State.

The families of Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, have issued emotional appeals for the girls to return home after they flew to Turkey last week.

All three were studying for their GCSEs at Bethnal Green Academy in London and were last seen on Tuesday morning. They left their homes before 8.00am giving their families "plausible reasons" why they would be out for the day before travelling from Gatwick to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight, said police.

Abase told her family she was going to a wedding and gave them "no sign to suspect her at all", said her father.

Officers from Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command have been working with authorities in Turkey to trace them.

Police spoke to the girls last December during an investigation into the disappearance of their friend, who is believed to be in Syria, but the Metropolitan Police said there was "nothing to suggest at the time that the girls themselves were at risk" and that their disappearance had "come as a great surprise, not least to their own families".

According to the BBC, Begum had sent a tweet to Aqsa Mahmood, a Glaswegian woman who travelled to Syria in 2013 to marry an IS militant. Mahmood's family say her Twitter account was being monitored by police, who should have taken action when Begum sent the message.

The Sunday Times suggests Kadiza Sultana had also sent out pro-IS messages on Twitter. A source at the Department for Education told the newspaper that counter-terrorism officers should have considered the risk that other girls from the academy might be tempted to follow their friend.

The Daily Telegraph says the girls are feared to have already crossed the Turkish border into Syria. A Turkish intelligence source told the newspaper that the girls had been seen in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad on Friday, aided by a militant "smuggler".

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