British ‘terror twins’,who went to Syria tell family they are still in ISIS’s capital as hunt continues
Twin schoolgirls who fled Britain to become jihadi brides have not escaped the ISIS-stronghold of Mosul in Iraq and are now in Syria, a source close to the family has said.
Zahra and Salma Halane, 17, were believed to be among three teenage girls who reportedly escaped Islamic State’s brutal regime in the city.
It followed reports from inside Mosul which claimed three British teenagers were being hunted down by the terror group for going on the run.
But a new source in the UK says the Halane sisters contacted their father Ibrahim this week to tell him they are safe, but now in Syria.
The Somali-born twins – who are now reportedly safe – achieved 28 GCSEs between them and had ambitions to become doctors.
And they might not face any terrorism charges if they do return to the UK, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Crime and Operations in the Metropolitan Police Service has said.
Referring to the three Bethnal Green Academy schoolgirls who fled to Syria last year, Mark Rowley said: ‘Based on the fact they were still travelling out there, if nothing more came to light at that stage then there were no terrorism issues we would need to arrest them for.
‘Obviously we are working with the families, trying to investigate where they are and what they are up to.
‘As and when they come into the West and we have contact with them we will make a decision based on the evidence at the time.’
‘I said at the time, based on what we know at the moment, something to the effect that we will not need to make arrests for terrorism offences but we will keep it under review and that remains the case.
‘I’m not going to give a running update on what they are involved with, what they’ve been doing, have they been doing things willingly, have they been coerced into matters.’
But yesterday, Theresa May suggested the Halane twins may not be allowed back into the UK if they had in fact escaped from ISIS militants.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the Home Secretary said: ‘We look on a case-by-case basis, and people have come back – youngsters who have gone there and suddenly realise what a mistake they’ve made.’
Two weeks ago, a blogger known as Mosul Eye said militants were desperately hunting for three girls, writing: ‘It is believed that those girls have escaped.
‘Three girls [Foreigners – British] married to ISIL militants, reported missing, and ISIL announced to all its checkpoints to search for them.
But yesterday he updated his Facebook page to say: ‘A key note on our report with regards to the three British escapees in Mosul.
‘We cannot confirm, as of yet, if those girls were the same trio mentioned in the British media, as their identities still unknown to us.
Police believe the girls were radicalised online and by their brother Ahmed. They fled their home in Manchester last July. It is understood they married IS militants but were widowed when their husbands were killed in fighting.
The girl’s father, Ibrahim, 52, said his daughters have told him ‘everything has changed’, The Sun reported today.
Last night a senior member of the Somali community in Manchester told The Daily Mail: ‘The family are extremely positive the twins are trying to get home… we are praying they come back safely.’
The identity of the girls emerged after an expert on ISIS warned that, if caught, the girls are likely to be executed.
Raffaello Pantucci, Director at the International Security Studies at RUSI, said: ‘If you look on past form, [ISIS] have jailed people… or they’ve simply executed them.
‘They’ve quite publicly executed people who they say were trying to defect or became spies in some way and they’ve punished them with death.
‘I can’t think of cases where they have executed jihadi brides but it’s possible they could execute them too.
‘What we don’t know is what they’re being accused of or why they ran away at the moment, whether it’s apostasy, abandonment, or adultery from their husbands, it’s difficult to know exactly what is happening.’
On the girls’ chances of survival, he added: ‘The terrain [around Mosul] is treacherous. It would be very difficult for three small girls. I don’t know how good their Arabic was, I don’t know if they know the area or how much money they have.
‘But if they have managed to escape and they are now trying to find a safe place to go then they’re in for a very tough time.’
The ages of the three girls reported to have fled led to initial suggestions that they were Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, who disappeared from their homes in east London earlier this year.
But a lawyer for the trio’s family denied they were on the run, insisting most recent reports from them suggest they are living 300 miles away from Mosul in the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS’s de-facto capital.
Tasnime Akunjee, who represents the girls’ families, said: ‘According to our own sources the girls from Bethnal Green remain in Raqqa and are not being pursued by any parties.
‘The families heard from me that it is extremely unlikely to be them.
‘The blog might be right about other girls, there’s a number of other girls out there. From my sources, it’s not them.’
He says the schoolgirls’ families met the news that they are not on the run with ‘mixed’ emotions.
The lawyer added: ‘The families have mixed feelings. One does not want their daughter going on the run from the most known terrorist organisation in the world in their own territory. But the families want them back.’
He said the girl’s famlies have had no recent communication with the girls.
The families of Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana refused to comment on the development.
The newly-appointed Home Secretary told ITV1’s Good Morning Britain: ‘Obviously there are young people who go to Syria, some of whom find that what they see there is not what they thought it was going to be.
‘We look on a case-by-case basis, and people have come back – youngsters who have gone there and suddenly realise what a mistake they’ve made.’
She confirmed that some young Britons who went to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS have come back after becoming disillusioned.
Mosul Eye, a blogger in Iraq, revealed the girls had fled on May 2 through his Facebook page – set up ‘to communicate what’s happening in Mosul to the rest of the world, minute by minute from an independent historian inside Mosul’.
The blogger, who opposes ISIS and remains anonymous, has written in detail in both English and Arabic about the inner-workings of the group, their execution of civilians and casualties they suffer from coalition air-strikes.
In a later post he added: ‘The latest info I got on them is they are still on the run, but still in Mosul, and ISIL is thoroughly searching for them and hasn’t captured them yet.
‘They are Brits, not immigrants, and they are very young teens (around 16 years old). That’s all I have about them for now.’
The Foreign Office was investigating who the trio might be and a spokesman told the MailOnline: ‘We are aware of reports and are looking into them.’
In earlier postings Mosul Eye warns of IS carrying out mass searches of homes, looking for laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other devices, warning: ‘Please delete all your browsing history from anything related to politics, ISIL, adult content, music, movies, pro-government pages.’
ISIS are reportedly unpopular with much of the local population and appear to be increasing the terror in the city as their losses mount.