Shamima Begum: Family of pregnant IS teen plead for return

Shamima Begum Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Begum was 15 and living in Bethnal Green, London, when she left the UK in 2015

The family of Shamima Begum – the teenager who went to Syria to join the Islamic State group – have called on the UK to bring her back “urgently”.

Her family, from east London, said the 19-year-old’s unborn baby is “a total innocent” and had the right to grow up in the “peace and security” of the UK.

Ms Begum told the Times she feared her child would be taken from her if she came back to the UK.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said she could face charges if she returns.

Ms Begum was one of three London schoolgirls who left the UK for Syria in 2015.

She was found in a Syrian refugee camp by a reporter from the Times on Wednesday. The teenager had escaped from Baghuz – IS’s last stronghold in eastern Syria.

According to reports in Saturday’s Times, Ms Begum said: “What do you think will happen to my child?

“Because I don’t want it to be taken away from me, or at least if it is, to be given to my family.”

She added she had been taken to hospital after having contractions after arriving at the camp, which meant she could give birth “any day”.

Her family said that until then they had “lost all hope” of seeing Ms Begum again, saying she had risked “imprisonment and death” in escaping from IS territory.

They said they were “utterly shocked” by her lack of regret about joining IS, but that they were the “words of a girl who was groomed at the age of 15” and is surrounded by IS sympathisers.

The family said they were concerned that Ms Begum’s mental health had been affected by her four years in Syria, during which she married an IS fighter and had two children who died.

“Now we are faced with the situation of knowing that Shamima’s young children have died – children we will never come to know as a family. This is the hardest of news to bear,” the family said.

“The welfare of Shamima’s unborn child is of paramount concern to our family, and we will do everything within our power to protect that baby who is entirely blameless in these events.”

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Media captionWe asked people in Bethnal Green, where Shamima Begum previously went to school, whether the teenager should be allowed back to the UK

They said they would welcome an investigation into her actions in Syria “under the principles of British justice”.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he could use a range of measures to stop IS supporters who posed a serious threat from returning to the UK, such as depriving them of British citizenship or excluding them from the country.

“If you do manage to return you should be ready to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted,” he said.

But Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer for Ms Begum’s family, told the Times he did not believe Mr Javid had “the legal grounds or tools to stop her coming back”.

The teenager told the newspaper she knew returning to the UK “wouldn’t be a quiet thing” and she understood she faced possible terrorism charges.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (l-r) in photos issued by police

Chief of the intelligence service MI6, Alex Younger, told the Munich Security Conference on Friday that British citizens “have a right to come to the UK”.

He said he was concerned about jihadists returning to Europe with “skills and connections that make them potentially very dangerous”, he said.

Ms Begum was one of three girls, along with Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, from Bethnal Green Academy in east London, who left the UK for Syria in February 2015.

She said Kadiza Sultana had died after a house was bombed, but the fate of her other friend is still unknown.

Ms Begum escaped from Baghuz two weeks ago, but her husband – a Dutch convert to Islam – surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters as they left.

IS has lost control of most of the territory it over-ran in Iraq and Syria.

However, fighting continues in north-eastern Syria, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they have captured dozens of foreign fighters in recent weeks.

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