London: A London schoolgirl who had fled her home in Britain to join Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria is feared to have been killed in a Russian air strike on the terrorist-held region. Kadiza Sultana’s family lawyer Tasnime Akunjee told BBC last night that they heard a report of her death in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold in Syria, a few weeks ago.
“The family are devastated. A number of sources have said that she has been killed and she has not been in contact with the family for several weeks. Over a year ago, she had been talking about leaving. There was a plan to get her out,” Akunjee said.
Sultana, believed to be of Bangladeshi-origin, was 16 when she joined two other school friends, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15 at the time, to flee to Syria in February 2015. All three were pupils of Bethnal Green Academy in east London and had told their parents they were going out for the day.
“We were expecting this, in a way. But at least we know she is in a better place,” Sultana’s sister Halima Khanom said in a statement in reference to her feared killing. Akunjee said though Sultana had expressed a desire to return to the UK but feared of ‘brutal’ consequences from ISIS.
He said, “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.
“I think she found out pretty quickly that the propaganda doesn’t match up with the reality.” The schoolgirls are among more than 800 Britons who are believed to have left the UK to join ISIS or other militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
All the girls had reportedly been married off as so-called ‘jihadi brides’ to ISIS fighters, including an Australian and a US national and two became widows within months of arriving in Syria, their families were told earlier.
In March last year, the Scotland Yard commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the teenagers could return home without fear of being prosecuted for terrorism, as long as no evidence emerged of them being engaged in violence.
A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said, “The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria. As all UK consular services there are suspended, it is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.”