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Missing teenage sisters are 'now in Syria', police say

The girls, said to be deeply religious, have ignored the largely Somalian family’s pleas for them to return home

Two 16 year-old twin girls who have travelled to Syria to join the jihad have told their families they have no intention of returning home.

The family of teenagers Salma and Zahra Halane found their beds empty last month. Police now believe that they flew to Turkey then crossed the border into Syria.

The girls, said to be deeply religious, have ignored the largely Somalian family’s pleas for them to return home and are believed to have joined an older brother who joined the extremist militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

The teenagers have spoken with members of the family two or three times since they arrived in Syria by telephone, said Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation who has been in contact with the family.

“They said that they were there to support the Syrian people and they wouldn’t be coming back,” he said.

Analysis of terrorist related prosecutions between 1999 and 2010 by the Henry Jackson Society showed that only four percent of those were committed by women, and mostly for supporting men. The most serious attack by a woman in Britain was Roshonara Choudhury who stabbed the Labour MP Stephen Timms because he voted for war in Iraq. She was later jailed for life for attempted murder.

“It didn’t surprise me that women were going,” said one of the report’s authors Hannah Stuart. “I imagine that they (the authorities) are looking more closely at men travelling to Turkey than women.”

Scotland Yard said in April that the number of Britons travelling to Syria numbered in the “mid-hundreds” although the number of women travelling there was not known.

Police are now investigating what help they were given to travel to Syria. “I want to stress that the welfare of these two teenagers is our overarching priority,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, said: "At this stage we don't know for sure why they are there, or exactly who they are with.

"They are clearly posing a threat to themselves and potentially the community and their family and friends are concerned for their well-being.”

The Sun newspaper reported that Salma and Zahra had achieved 28 GCSEs between them and published a photograph of one of them at an information day at Connell Sixth Form College in Manchester.