Syria girls: Families urge three UK teens to come home

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Media captionA lawyer for the families of the schoolgirls who travelled to Syria says that the authorities "failed to act appropriately"

The families of three UK schoolgirls missing in Syria have appealed for them to immediately come home.

Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, left the UK last month for Syria, where it is feared they have joined Islamic State.

Their families said they felt their loss "more acutely" on Mother's Day.

They again criticised police, the girls' school and their local authority for not passing on information they say could have stopped them leaving.

In a joint statement, the families said they "pray" for the safe return of their "beloved daughters".

Criticism repeated

The families have criticised the Met Police and Bethnal Green Academy, in east London, for not making them aware of another pupil at the school - a friend of the girls - who left for Syria in December.

Sharmeena Begum, 15, from Bethnal Green, left about two months before the three girls.

"With respect to the disappearance of our children we have been disappointed by the handling of this matter by the school, Met Police and the local authority, all of whom we feel failed to act appropriately and pass on vital information to us or indeed between each other," the families said.

"Had we been made aware of circumstances sooner, we ourselves could have taken measures to stop the girls from leaving the UK," they said.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption CCTV images captured the girls at Gatwick Airport, where they boarded a flight to Turkey

The statement comes after the head of the Met Police apologised to the families on Tuesday for the fact they failed to receive a letter intended for them.

The families have complained the letter - about the Sharmeena's disappearance - had been given to the three pupils instead of being sent directly to them.

Shamima, Amira, and Kadiza were among seven girls spoken to by police at Bethnal Green Academy as potential witnesses after she went missing.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he was sorry the letter "didn't get through".

All four teenagers are thought to be in the city of Raqqa - an IS stronghold in Syria.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (L-R) left Britain in February

In the statement, the families said they hoped "lessons are learned from our experience" and that other families will not have to "bear the same pain we are enduring".

The families said they appreciated the apology from the police and welcomed moves by Tower Hamlets Council, in east London, to educate parents about radicalisation and extremism.

"We will continue to do everything we possibly can to ensure our girls are brought back to us safely," they added.

It comes as three teenagers from the UK - including two 17-year-old boys from north west London - were detained in Turkey on suspicion trying to enter Syria.

The trio were returned to the UK on Saturday night where they were arrested on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts and released on bail pending further enquiries.

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