UPDATE: Appeal regarding 3 missing schoolgirls

24 February 2015

The three missing girls from London at Gatwick airport

Police appealing for information about three schoolgirls who have been reported missing now have reason to believe that they are no longer in Turkey and have crossed into Syria.

Officers continue to work closely with the Turkish authorities on this investigation.

The missing girls are:

“We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls."

- Shamima Begum, 15-years-old - possibly travelling under the name of Aklima Begum, 17-years-old

- Kadiza Sultana, 16-years-old

- Amira Abase, 15-years-old

All three girls are pupils at a school in east London and are close friends.

They were last seen on the morning of Tuesday 17 February at their home addresses in east London. They left their homes prior to 8am providing their families with plausible reasons as to why they would be out for the day.

Instead they met and travelled to Gatwick airport. They boarded a Turkish Airlines flight, TK1966, which departed at 12:40pm to Istanbul, Turkey and landed at 6.40pm local time.

Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) 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."

Anyone who saw the girls as they travelled to Turkey either making their way to Gatwick, waiting at the airport, on the flight or when they arrived at Istanbul should contact the police. Any piece of information, no matter how small, could help the UK or Turkish authorities locate them so they can be safely returned home to the UK.

Shamima Begum is described as approx 5''7" tall, and wearing black thick rimmed glasses, a black hijab, light brown and black leopard print scarf, dark red jumper, black trousers and jacket, carrying a dark blue cylindrical shape holdall with white straps. Nationality British, she speaks with a London accent and speaks English and Bengali.

Kadiza Sultana is described as 5'6" tall, slim build and wearing black rimmed glasses, long black jacket with a hood, grey striped scarf, grey jumper, dark red trousers, carrying a black holdall. Nationality British she speaks with a London accent and speaks English and Bengali.

Amira Abase is described as 5'6" tall, slim build wearing black thick rimmed glasses, black head scarf, long dark green jacket with fur lined hood, light yellow long sleeved top, black trousers, white trainers carrying a black Nike holdall. She speaks English and Amhrick

Shamima and Amira were reported missing to police by their families later that evening when they did not return home.

Kadiza was reported missing by her family on the morning of Wednesday 18 February.

Police have been working with the families and overseas authorities since they were reported missing in an attempt to locate the girls and return them to their families.

Commander Richard Walton continued: “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, 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 free phone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number on 0800 789 321"

Anyone who is concerned that a family member may be contemplating travelling to Syria should contact police and partners so that we can intervene and help. This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies by offering support to the young and vulnerable.