July 10, 2014
Twin British schoolgirls who ran away to Syria were star pupils, with 28 GCSEs between them.
Salma and Zahra Halane were among the top 20 students at their girls’ school in Manchester but slipped out of their bedrooms and have fled abroad to become ‘jihadi brides’.
The 16-year-olds, who disappeared two weeks ago, have telephoned their parents to tell them they have reached the war-torn country and warned them ‘we’re not coming back’.
Their mother told the Daily Mail last night: ‘I’m just so shocked.’ The 44-year-old, who wears a hijab, then broke down in tears at her semi-detached home in a leafy suburb of Chorlton, Manchester.
Police said today that the twins ‘potentially pose a threat to themselves and the community’.
The sisters may have followed their brother, who is thought to have flown out to fight with terror group ISIS last year.
Salma achieved 13 GCSEs, 11 of which were A*-C, while Zahra achieved 15 passes, 12 of which were A*-C grades – placing the girls within the top 10 per cent of their year group of 200 students.
The girls’ parents raised the alarm two weeks ago, after entering the twins’ room one morning to find their beds empty and passports and clothes missing.
The girls boarded a flight to Turkey from Manchester airport, and police alerted counter-terrorism colleagues in an attempt to trace the pair.
However, the twins – who have nine siblings, one of whom is a medical student – later contacted their parents to inform them they had crossed the border and reached war-torn Syria.
Officers are investigating how the girls funded their trip, over fears they may have been bankrolled by jihadi fighters who want them as their wives.
The North West Counter Terrorism Unit head Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, said: ‘First, I want to stress that the welfare of these two teenagers is our overarching priority.
‘Two 16-year-old girls left the UK on June 26 and we believe that they have since entered Syria.
‘At this stage we don’t know for sure why they are there, or exactly who they are with.
‘They are clearly posing a threat to themselves and potentially the community and their family and friends are concerned for their well-being.
‘It is also important that we thank the community for their assistance in this matter while reminding them and the wider media that the family remain very concerned for the safety of their daughters’.
The twins’ elder brother is already known to police in Greater Manchester, and is known to be abroad. Counter-terrorism officers plan to question him if he attempts to return to Britain.
The Halane family, originally from Somalia, have told friends and community leaders they are ‘absolutely devastated.’
Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadan Foundation, said: ‘The family is shocked and absolutely devastated, especially their mother.
‘Their son went to fight for ISIS about a year ago and has been over there since then. They believe he was radicalised over the internet.