Four more pupils at the east London school attended by three teenage girls who travelled to Syria are being monitored over fears they may also have been considering leaving Britain to join Islamic State.
The Independent understands that a total of seven students at the Bethnal Green Academy, including the trio who succeeded in travelling out of Britain last month, were identified by police as being potentially vulnerable to radicalisation as early as December last year after a fellow pupil travelled to Syria.
The girls are believed to have been placed on a warning list as part of the Government’s Prevent strategy to counter radicalisation after their classmate managed to board a flight to Turkey from a London airport.
The continuing concern over teenagers being lured to join ISIS came as relatives of the three girls who left for Syria said they believed police had “let them walk out” of Britain after it emerged they had been spoken to by officers twice before their disappearance.
Relatives of the teenagers told Vice News website that each of the girls had received letters from counter-terrorism detectives seeking permission from their parents for statements about the disappearance of their classmate in December to be taken shortly before they themselves left for Syria on 17 February.
The parents never received the letters and said they were not informed that their daughters - Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, both 15, and 16-year-old Kadiza Sultana - had been spoken to in school by officers. Now the families fear the intervention may have hastened the girls’ decision to leave.
In pictures: Syria conflict
In pictures: Syria conflict
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Syrians carry children amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl on a street covered with dust following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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Syrians react as they stand amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man carries a girl amid debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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An injured Syrian man walks out from the rubble of a destroyed building following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo
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People stand on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo
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Syrian residents stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings
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A Syrian resident grasps a mattress amid rubble in the al-Firdous neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo
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A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs
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A general view shows abandoned buildings on a deserted square in the old city of Homs after Syrian government forces regained control of rebel-controlled areas
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A mosque is pictured through shattered glass in the old city of Homs, as rebel fighters withdrew from the city centre in line with a negotiated withdrawal deal with the government after having held out under tight siege for nearly two years
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Buses carrying Free Syrian Army fighters leaving Homs. Exhausted and worn out from a year-long siege, hundreds of Syrian rebels left their last remaining bastions in the heart of the central city of Homs under a cease-fire deal with government forces. The exit of some 1,200 fighters and civilians will mark a de facto end of the rebellion in the battered city, which was one of the first places to rise up against President Bashar Assad's rule, earning it the nickname of "capital of the revolution"
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Syrian government forces hold up a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad (L) while others raise the national flag on top of a pole in the old city of Homs
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad run through Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr crossing after their release by rebels. They were freed as part of a larger deal which saw the last remaining Syrian rebels in central Homs city evacuate their positions and free captives in several locations in northern Syria
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A Syrian woman and two children walk past heavily damaged buildings in the northern city of Aleppo
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A man carries a wounded girl following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Mowasalat neighborhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A wounded man sits as he is treated at a makeshift hospital following a reported bombardment with explosive-packed "barrel bombs" by Syrian government forces in the al-Sakhour district of the northern city of Aleppo
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Debris rises in what Free Syrian Army fighters and Islamic rebels said was an operation to strike Al-Sahaba checkpoint, which is considered a gateway to Al-Dayf valley, and remove forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Maarat Al-Nouman, Idlib province
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Men try to put out fire at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Civil Defence members try to put out fire
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Survivors react at a site hit by what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey
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Residents queue as they wait to receive food aid distributed by the UNRWA at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus
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Belongings of Syrian rebels inside a chapel at Crac des Chevaliers, the world's best preserved medieval Crusader castle in Syria. The village was destroyed in fighting between the government and rebel forces while the castle, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, also has been damaged over the past two years
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Hosen Sabah, a 16-year-old student is comforted by his mother at a hospital in Damascus. Nosen was wounded by a mortar outside his school, while 14 other students were killed and over 80 wounded
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A Free Syrian Army fighter works on a locally made launcher before firing it towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Mork town
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Syrian policemen and citizens inspecting the site of a car bomb at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus. According to Syria's Arab News Agency (SANA), a car bomb explosion has gone off in the countryside of Damascus and initial information say there are casualties, where a car rigged with explosions was remotely detonated at the entrance of Moadhamiyet al-Sham neighborhood in rural Damascus during engineering units it was trying to dismantled it
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Opposition fighters carrying a rocket launcher during clashes against government forces in the Sheikh Lutfi area, west of the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A Syrian man helps a woman to make her way through debris following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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A Syrian man reacts as he carries the body of injured boy following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 33 civilians were killed in the attack
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Syrian rescue workers carry the body of a woman following reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
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Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces in the Halak neighbourhood in northeastern Aleppo
Fahmida Aziz, a cousin of Ms Sultana, said: “Were they feeling victimised by police? Were they feeling criminalised? Did they feel they had done something wrong? My query would be, by giving this letter, how did that make the girls feel?”
The Yard has insisted that it had no evidence that the three girls were at risk of fleeing to Syria prior to their departure. The letters, dated 2 February, underlined that the teenagers were “not under any suspicion of doing something wrong”.
Sources with knowledge of the ongoing investigation said that the four girls now being monitored are the remainder of the seven who were all informally interviewed by police when the unnamed Bethnal Green Academy pupil, aged 15, made the journey to Syria in December after apparently answering the siren call of ISIS recruiters.
The four, who also received the letters, are continuing to attend lessons at the school, which is rated as outstanding by Ofsted and has been told by police there is no evidence radicalisation took place within its walls, while their families receive support from police and the local authority.
It is understood that detectives have examined mobile phones belonging to the quartet to look at their contacts with the three other teenagers prior to 17 February. One line of inquiry is believed to be the theory that the girls who travelled to Syria were directly assisted by an ISIS facilitator based in Britain.
Relatives of the three departed girls said they felt they should have been told by both police and the school that they had been approached by detectives and that officers may have been able to do more to prevent their departure from Britain.
Jubeyda Rauf, the 16-year-old sister of Ms Sultana, said: “I just feel like the police allowed that to happen. It seemed like they had more information, they knew what they were doing. I just feel like they let them walk out. That’s how it feels.”
The official leading anti-radicalisation efforts in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, where the Bethnal Green Academy is based, also criticised the Yard’s initial investigation into the disappearance of the first teenager.
Nojmul Hussain, manager of the Prevent scheme in Tower Hamlets, told Vice News: “No risk assessments were done around how they could support other students who came into contact with the girl. There are a lot of lessons that must be taken from the way the investigation was handled, the main one being the value of information sharing from the outset.”
The Yard acknowledged its contact with the three teenagers but insisted its enquiries had been routine. In a statement, it said: “There was nothing to suggest at the time that the girls themselves were at risk and indeed their disappearance has come as a great surprise, not least to their own families.
“The girls were spoken to in December 2014 as part of the routine inquiry by officers investigating the disappearance of their friend. We continue to liaise with the school and local education authority in connection with this ongoing investigation.”
The Bethnal Green Academy did not respond to a request for comment.Reuse content