British police are using social media and cell phone numbers to try to contact three London schoolgirls whom they fear left home with plans to travel to the part of Syria controlled by the ISIS terror group.
Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and a third 15-year-old girl whose family did not want her identified are close friends at Bethnal Green Academy in East London. They were last seen Tuesday morning as they left home, saying they were going out for the day.
But surveillance video revealed the girls traveled to London’s Gatwick airport and boarded a Turkish Airlines flight which landed in Istanbul Tuesday evening.
Police say the girls are close friends with another 15-year-old girl who fled to Syria in December.
“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 the Islamic State,” Metropolitan Police Commander Richard Walton told Sky News.
“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,” Walton told reporters.
The families of the girls are “devastated” but holding out hope that they are still in Turkey and can be stopped before heading to Syria. The teens brought cell phones with them so police are using Turkish media and social media to try to contact them.
“What has happened is really sad,” a family friend of one of the missing girls, identified only as Sadek, told Sky.
The number of Westerners who have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS is thought to be about 3,000, including as many as 550 women, according to the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
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