Missing London Schoolgirls Believed To Have Crossed Into Syria From Turkey

    The three teenagers boarded a plane from Gatwick airport to Istanbul last week. This post has been updated with the police's statement on the girls entering Syria.

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    The Metropolitan police said on Tuesday 24 February that counter-terrorism officers leading the investigation into the missing schoolgirls now had reason to believe the girls were no longer in Turkey and had crossed into Syria.

    "Officers continue to work closely with the Turkish authorities on this investigation," the force added.

    Families of three London schoolgirls believed to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS extremists have pleaded for the trio to return to the UK.

    Metropolitan Police

    London's Metropolitan police said they believed Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, voyaged to Turkey as part of plans to head to Syria. The announcement was made Friday, and Abase's family released her name Monday.

    The girls are pupils at Bethnal Green Academy in east London, and are said to be close friends. They were last seen on Tuesday morning during half-term.

    In a statement issued Saturday to Channel 4 News, the family of Kadiza Sultana said they were "distressed" and "extremely worried" for the girls' safety.

    "We would like to emphasise that we are not angry with you and you have not done anything wrong. We just want you all to return home, safe and sound."

    In a statement to the BBC, Shamima Begu's family pleaded for her to return.

    "Syria is a dangerous place and we don't want you to go there. Get in touch with the police and they will help to bring you home," the Begu family said.

    "You can help from home, you don't have to put yourself in danger. Please don't cross the border. Please come home to us."

    On Monday, Abase's family made an appeal for her to return to the UK.

    Her father, Abase Hussen, said: "We are depressed, and it's very stressful. The message we have for Amira is to get back home. We miss you. We cannot stop crying. Please think twice. Don't go to Syria."

    He added: "What she's doing is completely nonsense. Remember how we love you. Your sister and brother cannot stop crying."

    Hussen said his teenage daughter had told him she was going to a wedding on the morning she travelled to Gatwick airport to fly to Turkey.

    The BBC reported that the trio were friends with another girl who travelled to Syria in December.

    The Metropolitan police said they left their homes before 8am and traveled to Gatwick airport, where they boarded Turkish Airlines Flight TK1966 to Istanbul and landed at 6.40pm.

    The Counter Terrorism Command unit's commander, Richard Walton, said: “We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to police. Our priority is the safe return of these girls to their families.

    "We are reaching out to the girls using the Turkish media and social media in the hope that Shamima, Kadiza, and their friend hear our messages, hear our concerns for their safety and have the courage to return now, back to their families who are so worried about them."

    Walton added that a number of young women have travelled to Syrian territories controlled by ISIS:

    We are concerned about the numbers of girls and young women who have or are intending to travel to the part of Syria that is controlled by the terrorist group calling themselves Islamic State.

    It is an extremely dangerous place and we have seen reports of what life is like for them and how restricted their lives become. It is not uncommon for girls or women to be prevented from being allowed out of their houses or if allowed out, only when accompanied by a guardian.

    The choice of returning home from Syria is often taken away from those under the control of Islamic State, leaving their families in the UK devastated and with very few options to secure their safe return.

    If we are able to locate these girls whilst they are still in Turkey we have a good possibility of being able to bring them home to their families. Anyone with any information about where they are should call the incident room via the freephone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number on 0800 789 321.

    Kadiza Sultana is 16 years old and is described as 5'6" tall, of slim build, and wearing black rimmed glasses.

    Metropolitan police

    She was last seen wearing a long black jacket with a hood, a grey striped scarf, a grey jumper, and dark red trousers, and carrying a black holdall.

    Police said she is a British national and speaks English with a London accent. She also speaks Bengali.

    Shamima Begum is 15, although police said she could be travelling under the name of Aklima Begum, a 17-year-old.

    Metropolitan police

    She is described as approximately 5''7" tall, and wearing black thick-rimmed glasses, a black hijab, a light brown and black leopard-print scarf, a dark red jumper, black trousers, and a jacket, and carrying a dark blue cylindrical holdall with white straps.

    She is also a British national and speaks with a London accent. She also speaks Bengali.

    Amira Abase, aged 15, was initially not named at the request of her family. They identified her Monday.

    Metropolitan police

    Police described her as 5'6" tall, of slim build, wearing black thick-rimmed glasses, black headscarf, a long dark green jacket with fur-lined hood, a light yellow long-sleeved top, black trousers, and white trainers, and carrying a black Nike holdall.

    She speaks English and Amharic.

    The Met said it had been working with the girls' families and overseas authorities since they were reported missing earlier this week.

    Anyone who saw the three girls as they travelled to Turkey is being asked to contact the police.

    "Any piece of information, no matter how small, could help the UK or Turkish authorities to locate them so that they can be safely returned home to the UK," a police statement declared.

    On Sunday, a Twitter account appearing to belong to Begum tweeted to an account associated with a female ISIS member known online as Umm Layth.

    Umm Layth is the online name used by 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, who ran away from her Glasgow home in November 2013 to join ISIS and is now believed to be in Syria.

    Courtesy Mahmood Family / Via buzzfeed.com

    She has often tweeted about her willingness to help women leave their homes and travel to ISIS-controlled territory.

    Assalamu alaykum sisters, if I can help you in any way pls kik me inshaAllah. My kik is: _axa

    umm layth@Muhajirah_Follow

    Assalamu alaykum sisters, if I can help you in any way pls kik me inshaAllah. My kik is: _axa

    9:13 PM - 15 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

    Sisters please for the sake of Allah contact the sisters whom are online rather than approaching the brothers.

    umm layth@Muhajirah_Follow

    Sisters please for the sake of Allah contact the sisters whom are online rather than approaching the brothers.

    11:39 PM - 15 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

    But bear in mind pls read our blogs & don't keep asking the same repetitive questions we have already answered. We ain't some call advisors

    umm layth@Muhajirah_Follow

    But bear in mind pls read our blogs & don't keep asking the same repetitive questions we have already answered. We ain't some call advisors

    11:39 PM - 15 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

    Although Mahmood has not tweeted since December, her account indicates that she followed Begum on Twitter after the request was sent, possibly so they could message each other privately.

    Twitter / Via Twitter: @Muhajirah_

    Richard James is the News Director for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

    Ellie Hall is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

    Contact Ellie Hall at ellie.hall@buzzfeed.com.

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