Four schoolgirls who travelled to Syria from east London to join Isis are now dead, their families fear.
The teenagers from Bethnal Green have not made contact with their families for over a year.
Sharmeena Begum, 15, was the first to flee to Syria after leaving east London at the end of 2014. Months later, she was joined by Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum – who is not a relative of Sharmeena – and Amira Abase.
The last three schoolgirls had travelled to Syria in February 2015 after deceiving their parents and siblings to make the journey to join the radical Islamist network.
In May last year, Kadiza Sultana is thought to have been killed in an airstrike in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State.
Prior to that, the families of the three other schoolgirls had been in intermittent contact with them using the internet and telephones. However, all communications have been cut off since May last year, prompting fears among family members that they may have been killed.
Lawyer Tasnime Akunjee, who has been representing the families, told the Sunday Times: “They fear the worst but live in hope.”
Shamima Begum was reported to have married an American jihadist recruit who left her once she fell pregnant. A British fighter who knew the girls in Raqqa told the paper: “Her husband was American. I didn’t see him, but he left her. He escaped and she was newly pregnant. This was maybe 1½ years ago.” It is unclear whether she ever gave birth to the child.
Kadiza Sultana, who had been a model student before travelling to Syria, is said to have married a western Isis fighter with Somali heritage, but wanted to return to the UK after he was killed in battle.
She told a relative: “I don’t have a good feeling. I feel scared.”
Shortly afterwards, she was killed in a Russian airstrike. The families of the other schoolgirls have not heard news of them since, it is claimed.
When news of the girls’ disappearance emerged, it shocked UK authorities but was met with celebrations for Islamists seeking to recruit “jihadi brides”. They entered Syria after flying from London to Istanbul in Turkey.
A social media account belonging to Abase, which has not become inactive, had previously been used to send messages discussing Chelsea football club. In one of her last exchanges, she was asked: “Who would you say is having the greatest impact on our season: Hazard, Costa, Fab or Matic?” to which she replied: “Erm, Hazard, I think.”
Last week her father pleaded for news about her welfare, saying: “You need to find out whether she is [alive] or not”.
Isis has suffered significant setbacks in recent months, with their forces driven out of Iraqi stronghold Mosul in early July after months of bloody fighting.
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