Bradford fathers of missing children beg wives to come home amid fears they have joined Isis

The husbands have not heard from their families for two weeks

Kashmira Gander,Cahal Milmo
Wednesday 17 June 2015 13:48
Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood (L), and Mohammad Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood, react during a news conference to appeal for their return
Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood (L), and Mohammad Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood, react during a news conference to appeal for their return

The husbands of two women who are feared to have taken their children to Syria have begged their families to come home during an emotional press conference in Bradford.

With the ordeal of the last eight sleepless days since they last spoke to their children etched on their faces, Akhtar Iqbal and Mohammed Shoaib used the conference to tearfully urge their wives - both sisters - to get in touch after arriving in Turkey six days ago, from where they are feared to have travelled to Syria and territory controlled by the Islamic State.

His voice cracking with emotion, father-of-five Mr Akhtar said: “I am shaking. It’s been too many days. I don’t know where are you. Please come back home, so we can live [a] normal life. Please, please come back home… I love you. all of you.”

Sisters Khadija Dawood, 30, Sugra Dawood, 34, and Zohra Dawood, 33, went missing with their children aged between three and 15, after they left Bradford for an Islamic pilgrimage to Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Akhtar Iqbal cries as a pleads for his wife to come home (Image: PA)

West Yorkshire Police have confirmed that all 12 family members have boarded a flight to Istanbul, according to the husbands' lawyer, stoking fears they plan to cross the border into Syria.

The disappearance of the three families is thought to be largest single incidence of Britons believed to be trying to reach Syria.

Akhtar Iqbal, the husband of Sugra Dawood, appealed to his wife to contact him and said: "Please, please call me. It's been eight, nine days, you are out and we don't know where you are.

Describing how he was shaking with fear, Mr Iqbal, whose five children Ismaeel, three, Mariya, five, Zaynab, eight, Ibrahim, 14 and Junaid Ahmed, 15, are with their mother, went on: "I miss you, I love you. All of you, I love you a lot. I can't live without you.

"To my family, please, please call me [so] at least I know where you are, are you safe?"

Top row, from left: Sugra Dawood with her children Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal. Bottom row, from left: Zohra Dawood with her children Nurah Binte Zubair and Haafiyah Binte; Zubair Khadiga Bibi Dawood with her children Muhammad Haseeb and Maryam Siddiqui

Echoing Mr Iqbal’s pleas, Mohammed Shoaib wept as he pleaded with his wife Khadija Dawood to bring home his children: five-year-old Muhammad Haseeb and Maryam Siddiqui, seven.

"We had a perfect relationship, we had a lovely family. Please contact me whenever you want. Please come back."

"I'm not angry, please come back, everything is normal, come back to normal life please. They are young kids, seven and five. We had a perfect relationship, we had a lovely family, I don't know what happened. Please contact me whenever you want," he said, before placing his face in his hands.

Earlier, Balaal Hussain Khan, a lawyer acting for the fathers, said the police were notified five or six days ago about the disappearances, and that the men have not spoken to their children since 8 June.

He told the press conference that there was "no indication whatsoever" that the women would flee or they they had been radicalised, as the family were in regular contact in Saudi Arabia, and the women had said they missed their husbands and were looking forward to coming home.

Mr Khan added that the family practise a "moderate version of Islam" and "at this stage, the family members are law-abiding citizens, there's never been any trouble, never been any suggestion of radicalisation."

"The children were going to school, doing everything normally," he said.

It is understood that the women's brother is fighting with Isis extremists, who have claimed swathes of Syria since they established a so-called Islamic State in Iraq a year ago.

Mr Khan confirmed that police are investigating the family member, but said it would be "inappropriate to comment."

Akhtar Iqbal (centre) and Mohammad Shoaib (right) sit with their solicitor Balaal Khan during a news conference to appeal for the return of their missing wives and children (Image: AFP)

"If the brother-in-law knows anything about his family members, please get in contact and send them back if they are in Syria," he said, adding that the men had not been in touch with him.

The disappearance of the Bradford families is the latest evidence of the steady trickle of Britons managing to leave the country to join Islamist extremist groups, some of whom are added to an increasing death toll.

It emerged this week that Talha Asmal, 17, from nearby Dewsbury, had become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber after blowing himself in an ISIS operation in Iraq, alongside the death of Thomas Evans, a white Muslim convert who was killed fighting for Somali terror group Al Shabaab.

Baroness Warsi, the Conservative peer who also knew the Asmal family, warned that the Government was failing to offer sufficient collaboration with the Muslim community to ensure it could combat the threat of radicalisation from face-to-face contact with extremists and, increasingly, over the internet.

She told BBC News: “Sadly over the last six or seven years there has been a policy of disengagement with British Muslim communities.”

'Abu Yusuf al-Britani', understood to be West Yorkshire teenager Talha Asmal

The former Foreign Office minister added: “It is incredibly odd and incredibly worrying that over time more and more individuals, more and more organisations are considered by the government to be beyond the pale and therefore not to be engaged with. It is now time to end that policy of disengagement and start speaking to the British Muslim communities, and empowering them to do more.”

Mr Iqbal and Mr Shoaib had considered travelling to Turkey to find the sisters, but police advised against it due to safety concerns.

Mr Khan appealed for anyone with information to come forward, and said: "If there are any friends of the wives or even the children who might have known about this trip, where they are going or if there has been any contact with anyone other than the family members, we are quite keen on you contacting either the police, my firm or the family directly."

West Yorkshire Police are now carrying out "extensive inquiries" and are working with authorities overseas in an attempt to locate the women and children.

Additional reporting by PA

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