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UK girl 'killed by Russian air strike on IS stronghold in Syria'

Former Bethnal Green resident Khadija Sultana reported by family lawyer to have been killed in Raqqa
Khadija Sultana was reportedly disillusioned with Islamic State life and wanted to return to Britain

A London girl who joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria is reported to have been killed in a Russian air strike on the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

Khadija Sultana, 17, who left her home in February 2015 with friends Amira Abase and Shamima Abase, is believed to have been killed earlier this year.

Her family's lawyer on Thursday said several sources had reported her death and she has not been in contact with her family for several weeks. 

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight, Tasnime Akunjee said they first heard a report of her death in Raqqa a few weeks ago, but added that the family had been unable to independently confirm her death.

He said the teenager had grown disillusioned and wanted to leave IS and return to the UK - but had decided to not risk being captured in attempting to escape the group. She reportedly was afraid of facing "brutal" punishment from the militant group. He added that the girl's family was "devastated". 

On Friday, Rushanara Ali, the British MP for the family's Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, told BBC Radio 4's Today that the case raised serious questions over the government's controversial Prevent counter-extremism programme.

She said she had "deep concerns" about the programme and repeated her calls for an investigation into how the girls were radicalised and what failures may have taken place.

On Thursday, speaking to ITV news, her sister Halima Khanom said: "We were expecting this in a way, but at least we know she is in a better place.

"We do not wish her name to come up in the headlines again... She is gone and we would like to respect her wishes."

Sultana joined IS after taking a flight from Gatwick to Turkey and later crossing the border into Syria.  

The channel also revealed that the family had been in communication with Sultana and explored how she could leave IS and cross back into Turkey.

In a phone call, Sultana expressed fears about living in Raqqa, saying she was frightened and reportedly added: "I don't have a good feeling."

In the call she said the man she had been married to had been killed and that she "felt scared".

She added: "You know if something goes wrong, that's it. You know the borders are closed right now, so how am I going to get out?"

The Sultana family's lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, said: "The family [is] devastated. A number of sources have said that she has been killed and she has not been in contact with the family for several weeks. Over a year she had been talking about leaving. There was a plan to get her out." 

Before joining IS, and reportedly marrying fighters loyal to the group, the three girls were said to be gifted students at Bethnal Green Academy in east London. 

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria. As all UK consular services there are suspended, it is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria.

"Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger."

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