Three missing Bradford sisters feared to have travelled to Syria with their nine children were stopped from leaving the UK before, the BBC understands.
According to sources, Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood and their children were removed from a flight to Saudi Arabia by security officials in March.
Police said the group were the subject of security checks which caused them to miss their flight.
They were subsequently cleared to travel and later rebooked flights.
Earlier, police revealed that one of the women has “made contact” with her family, indicating she may be in Syria.
Their brother, Ahmed Dawood, is understood to be fighting with extremists in the country, where he is believed to have been for a year.
West Yorkshire Police has said it is “extremely concerned” for the group’s safety after receiving information that the woman may have crossed the border into Syria – parts of which are controlled by Islamic State militants.
The group went missing after making a religious pilgrimage to Medina, Saudi Arabia.
It has also emerged that the mothers had no authorisation from education authorities to take their children out of school prior to the trip.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “We have received information that contact has been made with the family in the UK which suggests one of the missing adults may be in Syria.
- 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
“Contact has been made by one of the missing women and there is an indication that they may have already crossed the border into Syria but this is uncorroborated.”
The husbands of the two of the UK sisters made an emotional appeal on Tuesday, saying they “miss and love” them as they appealed for their return.
The group were last seen on 28 May in a hotel in the Saudi city of Medina.
The family was supposed to fly to Manchester following their pilgrimage but husbands Mohammed Shoaib and Akhtar Iqbal reported them missing when they did not return. They had last spoken to their children on 8 June.
The sisters, along with their children, are understood to have flown to Istanbul, Turkey – a commonly-used route into Syria – on 9 June.
Until earlier, there had been no contact with the group for one week.
BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said news that the group may have crossed the border was “the worst possible” for the families in Bradford.
He added that as yet, information was limited and raised as many questions as it answered.
“We don’t know which sister has made contact, we don’t know their whereabouts, and critically we don’t know what the UK authorities are going to be able to do next,” he said.
“From previous cases, all the indications are that once someone crosses into Syria, it is very difficult to get them back.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, told the BBC there were questions to be answered about why alarms had not been raised sooner, but for now the investigation was focused on finding the families and bringing them to safety.
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
- 17 June: Police say one of the women “made contact” with their family, and there are indications the group may have crossed the border into Syria
West Yorkshire Police has been working with the extended Dawood family and the Turkish authorities to try to establish the groups whereabouts.
They said anyone who is concerned that a family member may be contemplating travelling to Syria should contact police and partners via the free phone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number on 0800 789 321.
- 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
- Prevent strategy: BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asks if it is failing to stop radicalisation.
source : BBC NEWS