Month: May 2015

Jihadi threat requires move into ‘private space’ of UK Muslims, says police chief

Britain’s most senior Muslim officer says potency of Islamist propaganda means five-year-olds are so radicalised that some see Christmas as forbidden

Teenagers read a children’s edition of the Qur’an. Mak Chishty said friends and family should intervene earlier, watching for unexplained subtle changes in youngsters’ attitudes. Photograph: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters/Corbis

Islamist propaganda is so potent it is influencing children as young as five and should be countered with intensified monitoring to detect the earliest signs of anti-western sentiment, Britain’s most senior Muslim police chief has warned.

Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram” – forbidden by Islam. He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims, some 700 so far, being lured from their bedrooms to Syria by Islamic State (Isis) propaganda.

In an interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier. He said this could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer, which could be because the store is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned.

Chishty said friends and family of youngsters should be intervening much earlier, watching out for subtle, unexplained changes, which could also include sudden negative attitudes towards alcohol, social occasions and western clothing. They should challenge and understand what caused such changes in behaviour, the police commander said, and seek help, if needs be from the police, if they were worried.

Chishty is the most senior Muslim officer in Britain’s police service and is head of community engagement for the Metropolitan police in London. He said Isis propaganda was so powerful he had to be vigilant about his own children. But some will argue that his ideas walk a fine line between vigilance in the face of potent extremist propaganda and criminalising thought.

Scotland Yard has recently said police are making nearly an arrest a day as they try to counter a severe Islamist terrorist threat. On Friday, the Met confirmed they were investigating the potential grooming and radicalisation of a 16-year-old east London girl to run away and join her sister in Isis to become a “jihadi bride”. Police estimate that about half the 700 thought to have gone to Syria to support Isis have since returned to Britain.

Chishty said communities in Britain had to act much earlier. He said: “We need to now be less precious about the private space. This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates. The purpose of private-space intervention is to engage, explore, explain, educate or eradicate. Hate and extremism is not acceptable in our society, and if people cannot be educated, then hate and harmful extremism must be eradicated through all lawful means.”

He said that what was new about Isis was the use of social media and the internet to spread their message and urge people lured by it to join them or stage attacks in their home country.

Asked to define “private space”, Chishty said: “It’s anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, to someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things.”

He said friends and family were best placed to intervene. Questions should be asked, he said, if someone stops shopping at Marks & Spencer or starts voicing criticism. He said it could be they were just fed up with the store, but alternatively they could have “hatred for that store”. He said the community should “look out for each other”, that Isis were “un-Islamic”, as proven by their barbarity.

In February three teenage girls from a school in Bethnal Green, east London, slipped away from their families to travel first to Turkey and then into Isis-held territory in Syria. Their families said there had been no clue, but Chishty said there must have been some change in the children: “My view as a parent is there must have been signs.”

The propaganda of Isis was so powerful, the officer said, that he feared his own children might be vulnerable. He said his message to fellow Muslim parents was: “I am not immunised.” “If I feel the need to be extra vigilant, then I think you need to feel the need to be extra vigilant,” he said.

He said he had heard of cases of children seemingly influenced by Islamist views in stable families in which the parents or guardians had moderate views.

In the example of primary school children defining Christmas as “haram”, he insisted this was “factual” and said that while it may not be a police matter, parents and family needed to ask how children as young as five had come to that view, whether it be from school or their friends. Chishty said: “All the ugly bits of the problem, which are uncomfortable, you have to … deal with them properly, as a state, as a nation, as a community.”

He added that Muslim communities had done a lot to fight extremism but, given that there was no end in sight to the struggle and no slowing up in the stream of young people being attracted to extremism, it would need a level of vigilance not seen before, he said, and that current strategies were not working. “We are in unchartered water … We are facing a risk, a threat which is global, which is powerfully driven by social media, reaching you on your own through your mobile phone.”

The UK’s counter-radicalisation strategy has been criticised for co-opting those trusted by the young, such as teachers and youth workers, to inform on them to the authorities.

British Muslim girls and extremism: what I learned on my journey across the UK
Sara Khan
Read more
Chishty said it did not make someone an extremist if they criticised “British values”, but friends and family should ask why, especially if it marked a change in their view. He said more work was needed to understand why youngsters were attracted to Isis: “Some are bored, overqualified, underemployed … It is not a holy war.”

Chishty warned of a very real threat to Muslims in Britain from the backlash that might follow a terrorist attack, which counter-terrorism officials believe is a matter of when, not if.

After the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013 by two men espousing jihadi views, attacks against Muslims increased from one to seven a day, and there were 28 attacks on Muslim buildings. Such an attack, and even terrorist atrocities abroad, such as January’s massacre in Paris of Charlie Hebdo staff, were making community relations in London more challenging, but he said police had boosted their efforts to reassure and protect all communities.


Police stop girl heading to Syria after newspaper alert

Islamic State militants in 2014
About 700 Britons are said to have travelled to Syria

A British schoolgirl’s plan to travel to Syria to join Islamic State has been disrupted after an undercover newspaper investigation, police have said.

Scotland Yard said it was alerted to the “vulnerable” 16-year-old from east London by the Daily Mail.

Officers said they were working with her family and the local authority to ensure she was “kept safe from harm”.

The home secretary said the case, which involved grooming via social media, showed the “threat” from IS.

According to the Mail, counter-terrorism officers attended the girl’s family home on Wednesday.

The paper said she had intended to travel to the Syrian border, via Turkey and Switzerland, next week after her GCSE exams finished, in order to marry a jihadi fighting for IS.

It said a journalist posing as a 16-year-old girl had been involved in conversations online with the girl’s older sister – described as a “groomer” for IS – who is already in Syria. She had been trying to persuade the reporter to accompany her sibling.

IS had used encrypted apps on smartphones to send detailed instructions, the paper reported.

‘Stark reminder’

Commander Richard Walton, from the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism command, said: “We were made aware of a vulnerable young girl on Monday.


A BBC investigation has documented the Britons known to have died in Syria and Iraq, those convicted of offences relating to the conflict there and others believed to be living in territory controlled by Islamic State.

It includes the stories of:

  • 36 who are reported to have died
  • 15 who have been convicted by British courts
  • Many others who we have established are alive and active in Syria or Iraq

“Upon receiving the information officers acted promptly and were able to identify the girl concerned, and preventative steps have now been taken to do all we can to safeguard her.”

He added: “This case is a frightening example of how quickly social media can be used to groom vulnerable young people… This is a stark reminder to parents and the community of the speed with which these cases can develop.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said the incident showed the “seriousness of the threat” from IS.

She said: “The police and security service are working hard every day to keep our country safe, but it is up to all of us to stand united against extremism, support the pluralistic values that underpin our society, and stop young and vulnerable people from being drawn into this kind of trouble.”

In February, three schoolgirls from east London travelled to Turkey before crossing the Syrian border to join the terrorist group. A friend had earlier made the same journey.

And last week, Scotland Yard said more than 700 Britons were thought to have travelled to Syria, with about half having returned to the UK. It said a “significant proportion” of those who made the journey intended to join IS.

Cab driver Anis Sardar jailed for Iraq bomb murder

Anis Sardar
Anis Sardar’s conviction for his role in the Iraq insurgency has been hailed as a ‘landmark prosecution’

A London cab driver has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years for the murder of a US soldier in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2007.

Anis Sardar, 38, from Wembley, built bombs as part of a conspiracy to kill Americans fighting in the country.

One caused the death of 34-year-old Sergeant First Class Randy Johnson, of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.

Sardar showed no emotion as Judge Mr Justice Globe told him he must be detained for “an extremely long time”.

During his trial, Sardar told jurors he had become involved in the Iraqi insurgency to protect his fellow Sunni Muslims from Shia militias.


But handing down his sentence at Woolwich Crown Court, the judge rejected Sardar’s defence that he had been involved just once in bomb-making to protect the Sunni community.

He said: “I am satisfied that at the material time of the offences you had a mindset that made Americans every bit the enemy as Shia militias. Both were in your contemplation at all times.”

Mr Justice Globe described the bombs built by Sardar and his co-conspirators as “professionally made” and “in effect landmines”.

The judge told Sardar that Sgt Johnson, a family man with two young children, had been described by his commanding officer, Major Eric Adams, as showing “deep compassion” in leading his platoon.

Sergeant Randy Johnson
Sergeant Randy Johnson died after taking the full blast of a homemade bomb

The judge said: “It is therefore the saddest irony that when the eight-wheel Stryker vehicle containing the American soldiers ran over and exploded an IED it was Sgt First Class Johnson who was killed.”

He said the loss of Sgt Johnson, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously, was “one of the sad tragedies in what was going on in Iraq in 2007”.

He added: “By the jury’s verdict it is a loss for which you are directly responsible.”

Prosecutor Max Hill QC read a short message from Sgt Johnson’s widow Claudia in which she said: “Thank you so much, it’s a big relief to know that justice has been served.

“However, it does not change much for us. Randy will be greatly missed.”


Why Anis Sardar was convicted in the UK

Anis Sardar

Analysis: Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs correspondent

How can a man who helped make bombs in a foreign war end up on trial in a British court?

Sgt Johnson was killed amid the chaos of Iraq, but as far as British detectives and the Crown Prosecution Service were concerned, this was an act of terrorism, rather than an act of war.

In legal terms, he was a British citizen who had committed a crime overseas.

Generally speaking, the criminal law of the land is just that – it applies only to offences in the UK.

But murder is one of a small number of the most serious crimes that are extra-territorial.

Read more from Dominic Casciani here


‘Landmark prosecution’

Sardar’s conviction in a UK court for his role in the Iraq insurgency was hailed a “landmark prosecution” on Thursday.

Sue Hemming, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said that it showed international borders were “no barrier” to terrorists in the UK being prosecuted for murder committed anywhere in the world.

Sardar was stopped at Heathrow and his fingerprints were taken after he made his way back to the UK some two months after Sgt Johnson was killed.

In 2012, officers who were searching his London home as part of a separate investigation found an Arab language bomb-making manual with references to Islam on a computer disc.

Sardar originally denied to police that he had been “directly or indirectly” involved in bomb-making. But on the second day of his trial he admitted that fingerprints on two of four devices found in or around the road west out of Baghdad and linked to the case were his.

US Army Staff Sergeant Mark Aggers, in the witness box at Woolwich Crown Court for the trial against Anis Sardar,
US Army Staff Sergeant Mark Aggers, who served as a gunner on the Stryker, gave evidence

Mark Aggers, who was serving as a gunner on the Stryker vehicle, was also left with serious shrapnel wounds, while three further servicemen suffered concussion.

Henry Blaxland QC, for the defence, said that Sardar had moved on from his role in the insurgency.

“He tried to put it behind him but it has come back to haunt him,” Mr Blaxland said.

The US-led invasion of Iraq began in 2003, amid claims Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It sparked years of violent conflict with different groups competing for power.

British forces ended combat operations in 2009 and the US did so the following year. A total of 179 UK service personnel and nearly 4,500 US soldiers were killed during the conflict.

White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite now commands an army of 200 jihadi widow spies who pretend to be street sellers or hotel receptionists and call her the ‘Mother of Holy War’

White widow Samantha Lewthwaite commands a terrifying army of up to 200 female jihadis who she has trained to infiltrate governments, carry out suicide attacks, and call the British-born terrorist ‘Mother of Holy War’, MailOnline has learned.

Lewthwaite, the widow of London 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay, is working in the Intelligence Unit of Somali terror group Al-Shabaab, according to the country’s intelligence agencies.

And one of her star ‘students’ was behind the shocking suicide attack on a hotel in the capital Mogadishu which killed 28 people.

The revelations emerged amid shocking claims that Lewthwaite has masterminded the murders of 400 people – including the senseless slaughter of 148 at a university in Kenya – since becoming a ‘key member’ of the terror group.

Terrorist: British-born jihadi Samantha Lewthwaite (pictured) - known as the White Widow - now commands an army of other fanatic widows who spy for her, a Somali intelligence officer has revealed

Terrorist: British-born jihadi Samantha Lewthwaite (pictured) – known as the White Widow – now commands an army of other fanatic widows who spy for her, a Somali intelligence officer has revealed

Extremist: Lewthwaite (left), the widow of London 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay (right), is  working for the Intelligence Unit of Somali-based terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab

Extremist: Lewthwaite (left), the widow of London 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay (right), is working for the Intelligence Unit of Somali-based terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab

Insurgency: Lewthwaite was behind the terror raid on Westgate Mall (pictured in 2013) in Kenya in which over 60 people died, and the suicide attack on a Somalian hotel which killed 28, an intelligence officer has said

Insurgency: Lewthwaite was behind the terror raid on Westgate Mall (pictured in 2013) in Kenya in which over 60 people died, and the suicide attack on a Somalian hotel which killed 28, an intelligence officer has said

She is thought to be an active member of Al-Shabaab where she is currently employed in its Amniyat – or Intelligence Unit – Somali security sources have told MailOnline.

They say she lives with a group of widowed Al-Shabaab women and trains them to gather intelligence in government-controlled areas in Somalia by posing as tea shop owners, street sellers and hotel workers.

Lewthwaite’s spies collect information from government troops patrolling the areas, even if they are simply gossiping about Al-Shabaab, and pass secret messages back to their twisted leader.

She forwards this to other top Al-Shabaab officials such as its intelligence chief Mahad Karate and group’s leader Ahmed Omar Abu-Ubeyda, whom she is thought to be close to.

Intelligence officer Mohamed Hassan told MailOnline: ‘Her activities inside the group are increasingly directed by al-Shabaab’s chief of intelligence Mahad Karate.’

A Somali-born woman who carried out a suicide attack at the Central Hotel in Mogadishu where she was posing as a receptionist is believed to be one of her former disciples. An MP and the city’s deputy mayor were among the dead.

Lul Ahmed killed 28 people on February 20, when she blew herself up at the hotel as part of a ‘sophisticated inside job’ targeting the senior Somali government officials and politicians who were meeting there.

Leaders: Lewthwaite’s spies gather information from soldiers and police officers, and she in turn passes it on to senior Al-Shabaab members like its leader Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyda (pictured)

Covert: Somali officers have gained information on Lewthwaite's superiors such as Al-Shabaab's intelligence chief Mahad Karate (left) from former members of the group who have since defected, like Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi (right)

Covert: Somali officers have gained information on Lewthwaite's superiors such as Al-Shabaab's intelligence chief Mahad Karate (left) from former members of the group who have since defected, like Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi (right)

Covert: Somali officers have gained information on Al-Shabaab members like its official spokesman Ali Dhere (left) from former members like Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi (right) who have since defected

Hassan added: ‘We have intelligence reports that suggest that White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite was somehow involved in the bombing at the Central hotel, one of the most serious attacks in Mogadishu.’

Ahmed’s parents are claimed to be from Birmingham,Waagacusub Media has reported.

The website claims her father was a Colonel in the Somali National Army and her mother knew she joined Al-Shabaab after she separated her husband.

Inside Al-Shabaab, Lewthwaite is given the title ‘Mother of Holy War’ sources are telling us… Others call her a ‘warrior lady’… Her reputation is going up as she attracts many women in the phenomena of the so-called jihad
Mohammed Hassan, Somali intelligence officer

The night before the attack was the first time mother-of-six Ahmed stayed in the hotel. Thirteen other members of staff and two managers were arrested and interrogated, Somali security officials said.

Lewthwaite apparently poses as a nomadic woman who travels undercover with camels and goats which make her very difficult to trace.

But Hassan says they have ‘credible security information on her activities’ from former senior members of Al-Shabaab who have since defected, such as its ex-intelligence chief Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi.

‘Those who defected from Al-Shabaab are providing us with very helpful information on Samantha Lewthwaite.

‘Inside Al-Shabaab, Lewthwaite is given the title “Mother of Holy War” sources are telling us… Others call her a “warrior lady”.

‘Her reputation is going up as she attracts many women in the phenomena of the so-called jihad.’

The 31-year-old has masterminded the murders of 400 people after rapidly climbing the ranks of Al-Shabaab, according to The Mirror.

British-born Lewthwaite is thought to have orchestrated a number of attacks including last month’s slaughter of 148 people at a university in northern Kenya.

Amateur footage of terrifying Westgate massacre (archive)

Chilling: 31-year-old Samantha Lewthwaite (pictured) has been accused of masterminded the murders of 400 people after rapidly climbing the ranks of Al-Shabaab

Chilling: 31-year-old Samantha Lewthwaite (pictured) has been accused of masterminded the murders of 400 people after rapidly climbing the ranks of Al-Shabaab

Atrocity: Lewthwaite is also thought to be behind the massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya (pictured) where al-Shabaab militants murdered 148 people

Attack: Lul Ahmed, a Somali-born woman who carried out a suicide attack at the Central Hotel (pictured) in Mogadishu where she was posing as a receptionist, is believed to be one of Lewthwaite's former disciples

Attack: Lul Ahmed, a Somali-born woman who carried out a suicide attack at the Central Hotel (pictured) in Mogadishu where she was posing as a receptionist, is believed to be one of Lewthwaite’s former disciples

Lewthwaite is the daughter of a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland and the widow of one of the London 7/7 suicide bombers Germaine Lindsay.

On the morning of July 7, 2005, four British jihadis carried out a coordinated terrorist attack on London’s transport system, detonating three bombs aboard underground trains and a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square.

The so-called White Widow fled her home in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire soon after atrocious attacks and has since been linked to a series of shocking Al-Shabaab attacks.

They include the raid on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 67 and the massacre at Garissa University College in which 148 people were slaughtered.

The mother-of-four is ‘an evil person but a very clever operator’ who has been quickly promoted after many of al Shabaab’s leaders have been killed in drone strikes, an officer in the Somali security forces told the Mirror.

White Widow is subject of manhunt in over 200 countries

Lewthwaite is the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay who was one of the men who carried out a series of suicide attacks on London, including on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square (pictured in 2005)

Lewthwaite is the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay who was one of the men who carried out a series of suicide attacks on London, including on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square (pictured in 2005)

He claimed she is now coordinating car bombs and suicide attacks in Somalia and Kenya, recruiting children as jihadis and offering poverty-stricken families hundreds of pounds to use their youngsters and women as suicide bombers.

Adding: ‘She does not carry out attacks herself as she is too important but is responsible for many, many deaths – hundreds.’

‘We know she has surrounded herself with other Britons, her own people as her Somali language is not so good. They are her lieutenants and bodyguards.’

Lewthwaite even has partners outside Somalia that ‘boost her credibility in the group’ as she inducts jihadists who can successfully entice foreign Muslims into the group, a Mogadishu-based security analyst has said.

Ahmed Abdi told MailOnline: ‘Al-Shabaab female members are not used in combat operations but they are used in suicide bombings and collecting information at government controlled areas.’

Read more:

The challenge of extremism

David Cameron and Theresa May

After my blog earlier this week and an appearance on the BBC News at Ten reporting on government plans to introduce extremist banning orders, it is upsetting to find myself accused of positively comparing the radical Islamist firebrand Anjem Choudary with civil rights hero Mahatma Gandhi.

I would understand people’s shock and horror if I had – but I did not. Quite the reverse. Anjem Choudary is nothing like Mahatma Gandhi. Nor Nelson Mandela for that matter. Indeed, that was my point and I am saddened if it has been misconstrued.

Let me be clear what I was saying – the legislation being devised to deal with the former will need to be very carefully drafted to avoid scooping up anti-establishment figures such as the latter.

The home secretary and the prime minister are looking for a way to silence individuals whose extremist rhetoric helps radicalise people into supporting so-called Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Such support can and, tragically, sometimes does lead to violence that threatens our very way of life.

It is the responsibility of ministers to consider how to counter such threats to national security and individual safety.

But there are concerns that the definition of extremism being used by the government is too broad and risks undermining the very freedoms ministers say they are trying to defend.

The Home Office’s Prevent strategy defines extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

Denying the right to free speech to anyone who falls foul of this description has already worried senior parliamentarians.

The former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC says he is concerned that extremism powers could result in people being prosecuted for having a point of view.

The former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller has similar anxieties: “I am afraid that it is a profound irony that we are seeking to protect our values against this pernicious ideology by trying to bar views that are described, too vaguely, as ‘non-violent’ extremist – but which fall short of incitement to violence or to racial or ethnic hatred – which is already forbidden by law.”

This is the dilemma I was highlighting. Putting new powers into statute may deal with one immediate problem, but some speculate how a future government might exploit such powers to silence dissent and criticism.

There is an irony in this, not lost on the prime minister and home secretary. They wish to defend fundamental British values such as free speech, but to do so they find themselves looking at ways to deny some that very right. It is far from easy.

Police consider forced deradicalisation as terror arrests soar

Officers may seek powers to force people on to programmes, as they release figures saying hundreds of potential suspects have returned from Syria

Isis flag
Islamic State has attracted thousands of foreign jihadis to its cause. 

Police battling a growing tide of Britons attracted to jihad may ask for new powers to force people on to deradicalisation programmes, Britain’s counter-terror chief has said.

The Met’s assistant commissioner for specialist crime and operations, Mark Rowley, said the effort to stop people becoming terrorists needed a programme to prevent their radicalisation. The current one, called Prevent, has been criticised and Rowley said the measures could be beefed up, as arrests for alleged terror offences run at nearly one a day.

Police said on Thursday that more than 700 potential terror suspects had travelled to Syria and hundreds of them had returned to the UK.

Around half of the people of “significant concern” who had made the journey to the war-torn country were believed to have come back, Scotland Yard said.

Rowley said: “Do we need a mandatory counter-radicalisation programme that we can force people on to?”

Currently only those convicted of an offence can be forced into a programme to deflect them from extremist views.

Scotland Yard disclosed that a record 338 people were detained on suspicion of terrorism offences in 2014/15 – a rise of a third compared with the previous year.

Rowley, the national police lead for counter-terrorism, said more than half of the arrests were related to Syria.

Fears of a terrorist attack on Britain’s streets have heightened in the wake of the rise of Islamic State, the extremist group that has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria and attracted thousands of foreign jihadis to its cause.

Rowley said: “The number of people who have travelled to Syria has passed 700, in terms of those who are of significant concern to us and the security services.

“They are not aid workers or visiting relatives, they are people of real concern that they are getting involved in fighting or are supportive of it. They are potential terrorist suspects.”

Asked about the number who had returned to the UK, he said: “It is a fairly even balance between those still out there and those who have come back.”

My thought’s on this I’m for targeting Britons attempting to join #ISIS in the Middle East. What concerns me more is terrorists who plan to stay in the UK. #NewDayStarts

Girls who ‘escaped Isis’ not east London teens, say families

Parents of Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana, and Amira Abase say three teenage females reportedly on run are not their daughters

 The families of three London girls who ran off to Syria have said their hopes that they fled from the Islamic State have been dashed.

Reports that three teenage British females were on the run, following claims from a blogger in Mosul, led to speculation that it may have been the three girls from the Bethnal Green Academy in east London, who fled Britain in February.

However on Thursday, the families of Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, said inquiries had led them to believe the girls were still in Isis-controlled territory, understood to mean in or around Raqqa, in north Syria.

In February, they fled to Turkey and then on to Syria amid speculation they could be married to Isis fighters.

British police said on Thursday that two of the three girls claimed to be on the run might be twins Zahra and Salma Halane, 16. They fled Manchester to join Isis last year, married fighters and were recently widowed after their militant spouses were killed.

The blogger, who goes by the moniker Mosul Eye, also said the three girls who had escaped, were being hunted by Isis militants.

But the families of the three east London girls said the reports had given them hope of seeing their loved ones again. “We … were initially buoyed by the reporting in the press of three girls attempting to leave Isis-controlled Syria, however after our lawyer, Mr [Tasnime] Akunjee, made his own enquiries, we are confident that the girls in question are not one and the same.

“We pass on our heartfelt wishes to the relatives of the three girls in Mosul, it cannot be easy for the relatives knowing that their children are being pursued by one of the world’s more lethal militia groups.

“As ever, we pray for the return of all children who find themselves in Isis-controlled territory to their families in stable countries far away from any warzone, which is where any such children belong.”