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Family of schoolgirls who fled UK for Syria criticise police

Police gave girls letter to pass on to their parents, but families never saw the correspondence which they say would have flagged a problem
Families of missing British school girls Amira Abase and Shamima Begum pictured last month (AFP)

The families of three schoolgirls who ran away from their homes in London to Syria have voiced anger at police, saying they did not warn them that the teenagers risked being radicalised.

School friends Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase left their homes and flew to Istanbul, from where they are believed to have joined the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

In December, police spoke to all three girls during an investigation of the disappearance of another friend who went to Syria. 

But the families say they were in the dark about the police contact with their daughters after the teenagers hid a courtesy letter that police gave them to pass on to their parents, in which they asked for permission to speak to the students.

The relatives say police should have given the letter directly to the families and that, had they been aware of the situation, they could have taken action.

Amira's father Abase Hussein told ITV television on Friday that he could have prevented his daughter from travelling if he had been aware of the police contact over their friend's flight to Syria.

"We would have stopped them," Hussein said. "We would have discussed it and taken away their passports from them. This wouldn't have happened."

Kadiza's sister Halima Khanom added: "We wouldn't have been here today doing this if we'd got that letter and known what was going on."

Scotland Yard insists there was no indication at the time that the girls would follow their friend to Syria.

"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," it said in a statement.

"We continue to liaise with the school and local education authority in connection with this ongoing investigation."