The husbands of three sisters feared to have travelled to Syria with their nine children are said to be “distraught” after the group went missing following a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood, from Bradford, and their children aged three to 15 have not made contact for a week.
Their brother is understood to be fighting with extremists in Syria.
The fathers’ lawyer said the children said “we can’t wait to come home” in a conversation before they went missing.
Balaal Khan said: “We’ve had no answers whatsoever, we don’t know what’s happened.”
The fathers – two of whom are in the UK and one in Pakistan – have been “distraught, crying, they don’t know what to do”, said Mr Khan, who said it was suspected the women had taken their children to Syria.
The fathers last spoke to their children on 8 June, when they were in the Saudi city of Medina, he said, adding: “They said ‘We love you, we’re missing you, we can’t wait to come home.'”
Police say they are “extremely concerned” for the family’s safety and enquiries were continuing on a “national and international level”.
This latest case follows the deaths of Dewsbury teenager Talha Asmal, who reportedly blew himself up in Iraq becoming the UK’s youngest suicide bomber, and Muslim convert Thomas Evans, 25, from Buckinghamshire, who was among al-Shabab fighters killed in an attack on a Kenyan military base.
The Bradford family travelled to Medina on 28 May and were last seen in a hotel in the city.
They were supposed to fly to Manchester following their pilgrimage but the fathers reported them missing when they did not return.
There has been no contact with the sisters for one week. Their mobile phones have not been active, nor have their social media profiles been updated.
Travel agents confirmed that 10 tickets were bought for a flight on 9 June to Istanbul in Turkey, a commonly-used route into Syria.
It was not known whether the family boarded the flight, said Mr Khan, nor if two children who were unaccounted for – five-year-old Nurah Zubair and her sister Haafiyah Zubair, eight – were still with the rest of their family.
Mr Khan said he had asked for CCTV footage from Medina and from Turkey.
The 15-year-old son Junaid Iqbal was acting as the family’s mahram – an appropriate male responsible for the family – during the Saudi pilgrimage, he added.
Mr Khan is also reported in the Guardian as saying the fathers have received no help from the police and were forced to rely on their own inquiries but that was like “trying to find a needle in a haystack”.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah told the BBC she had spoken to two of the fathers and they were “worried out of their minds”.
“I asked them if there was any indication and they said absolutely not – it was a shock to them, it came out of the blue…
“At this time there is no contact, absolutely zero contact with the women or children. The last contact was a few days ago when they were due to leave.”
- Ismaeel Iqbal, three
- Mariya Iqbal, five
- Muhammad Haseeb, five
- Nurah Binte Zubair, five
- Maryam Siddiqui, seven
- Haafiyah Binte Zubair, eight
- Zaynab Iqbal, eight
- Ibrahim Iqbal, 14
- Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, 15
- Khadija Dawood, 30
- Sugra Dawood, 34
- Zohra Dawood, 33
West Yorkshire Police have contacted the Turkish authorities; however, there have been no sightings or contacts made in Turkey.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are in contact with West Yorkshire Police and Turkish authorities and are ready to provide consular assistance.”
Timeline of the disappearance
- Pre-June 2014: The sisters’ brother travels to Syria to fight with extremists
- 28 May 2015: Family travel from Bradford to Saudi Arabian city of Medina on pilgrimage
- 8 June: Fathers’ last conversation with their children
- 9 June: Mothers and seven of the nine children thought to have boarded flight to Istanbul in Turkey – a commonly-used route into Syria
- 11 June: Family had been expected to return to UK. Their disappearance is reported to the police
Baroness Warsi, a former Conservative minister for faith and communities, said successive governments had failed to engage with Muslims to tackle extremist ideas.
The government must uncover the “drivers for radicalisation” if it is to take on this “generational challenge”, she said.
- The Britons going to Syria and Iraq: The stories of those who have died, been convicted of offences relating to the Islamic State conflict or are still in Syria or Iraq