Missing Bradford family tried to leave UK earlier this year

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The missing women and children from Bradford tried unsuccessfully to leave the country earlier this year after being stopped by security, counter-terror officials said today.

Twelve members of the Dawood family have been missing since June 11, when they failed to return from a trip to Saudi Arabia, and are feared to have travelled to Syria.

Mohammed Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood speaking at a press conference in Bradford

Mohammed Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood speaking at a press conference in Bradford

In a statement released today, the North East Counter Terrorism Unit confirmed that the same group “were stopped and subject of security checks earlier this year”.

The statement said: “As a result, enquiries revealed that the visit was a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and the group were not prevented from travelling. However the process of conducting those enquiries caused the group to miss the flight.

“On a daily basis a number of people are subject to security checks prior to boarding flights. It is worth repeating that the party were not legally prevented from travelling.”

Earlier, counter-terror officials said they had received information “that contact has been made with the family in the UK which suggests one of the missing adults may be in Syria”.

The fathers are understandably quite distraught. One can imagine, not seeing their children for three weeks or so.

Solicitor Balaal Hussain Khan

The statement added: “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 12 members of the Dawood family, Khadija, 30, Sugra, 34, and their sister Zohra Dawood, 33, whose children are aged between three and 15, disappeared after going on an Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia from their homes in Bradford.

They did not return to the UK on June 11 as expected and are now thought to have flown from Medina in Saudi Arabia to Istanbul in Turkey.

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Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood, at a press conference in Bradford, as fears are growing for the safety of three British sisters

Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood, at a press conference in Bradford, as fears are growing for the safety of three British sisters

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Assistant chief constable Russ Foster of West Yorkshire Police said “We are extremely concerned for the safety of this family, especially the nine children aged between 3-15 years.

“The family have reached out to Khadija, Sugra & Zohra, in the hope that they hear their messages and we encourage them to make contact with us so we can return them and the children safely to their families who are extremely worried about them.

“We would urge anyone with information about the family’s whereabouts to come forward and speak to police so the family can safely return to the UK. Anyone with information should call West Yorkshire Police on 101.

Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Ismaeel Iqbal and Zaynab Iqbal at Heathrow airport. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Ismaeel Iqbal and Zaynab Iqbal at Heathrow airport. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

“Any piece of information, no matter how small, could help the UK or overseas authorities to locate the family so that they can be safely returned home to their loved ones.

“Police have been working with the extended Dawood family and the Turkish authorities since they were reported missing in an attempt to locate the family and return them to their loved ones.”

Yesterday Akhtar Iqbal, husband of Sugra Dawood, directly appealed to his family, saying: “All of you, I can’t live without you. Please, please come back home.”

In an emotional press conference in Bradford, Mohammed Shoaib told his wife Khadija Dawood:”We had a perfect relationship, we had a lovely family. Please contact me whenever you want. Please come back.”

The family’s lawyer said the children told their fathers they “can’t wait to come home” during their last conversation before they went missing.

Among those missing are Mr Iqbal’s five children Ismaeel, three, Mariya, five, Zaynab, eight, Ibrahim, 14 and Junaid Ahmed, 15.

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

He said: “I would like to appeal to my family. To my wife Sugra and my sons Junaid, Ibrahim, Ismaeel and my daughters Zaynab and Mariya.

“Please, please contact with me. Please, please call me. It’s been eight, nine days, you are out and we don’t know where you are.

“I miss you, I love you. All of you, I love you a lot. I can’t live without you.

“To my family, please, please call me (so) at least I know where you are, are you safe? Especially my three-year-old son Ismaeel.

“I am worried about my daughters. Please call me.

“Especially Junaid. You are 15. Please, if you watch this video, please ring me. Please contact me. I love all of you and I can’t live without you.

“Please, Mariya, I love you. I don’t know what to say, I’m shaking. I miss you. It’s been too many days.

“Please come back home so we can live a normal life. There’s nothing wrong. I miss you.

“That’s all I want to say. I want them back.”

Mohammed Shoaib, whose children five-year-old Muhammad Haseeb and Maryam Siddiqui, seven, are missing. said: “Please come back home with the kids, I know the kids can’t live without me and you, please bring them home, they can’t live without me.

“We’ve been married 11 years, and we were in a perfect relationship, she knew it, please come back.”

He added: “I’m not angry, please come back, everything is normal, come back to normal life please. They are young kids, seven and five. We had a perfect relationship, we had a lovely family, I don’t know what happened. Please contact me whenever you want.”

He wept during his statement and then sat with his face in his hands.

The family’s lawyer Balaal Khan said he believed a police investigation into the women’s brother, who is thought to be in Syria, had begun before the family went missing.

When asked about the brother, he said: “It’s currently under investigation by the police, it would be inappropriate to comment.”

He added later: “I believe it is an ongoing investigation from before the family went missing.”

Mr Khan would not rule out if the family were under police surveillance before they travelled to Saudi Arabia.

The family’s lawyer Balaal Khan said he believed a police investigation into the women’s brother, who is thought to be in Syria, had begun before the family went missing.

When asked about the brother, he said: “It’s currently under investigation by the police, it would be inappropriate to comment.”

He added later: “I believe it is an ongoing investigation from before the family went missing.”

Mr Khan would not rule out if the family were under police surveillance before they travelled to Saudi Arabia.

This morning, home video footage emerged of some of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home.

Mr Khan said the last sighting of the family was at the hotel in Medina.

There have been no confirmed sightings since that point, although travel agents have confirmed that 10 tickets were bought for a flight from Medina to Istanbul.

It is not known if the family boarded the flight or if the two children who were unaccounted for are still with the rest of their family.

Mr Khan said he had asked for CCTV footage from Medina and from Turkey.

He said: “Ten out of the 12 have been accounted for. We don’t know what’s happened to the other two so there’s a lot of unanswered questions as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned as well.

“How the tickets were purchased, why they were purchased, how they got the visas - it’s those questions we want answering.”

Mr Khan said the 15-year-old boy was acting as the family’s mahram - an appropriate male responsible for the family - during the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

He also confirmed that the husband of one of the women is in Pakistan.

The North East Counter Terrorism Unit said it was leading the investigation into the missing family.

A spokeswoman said: “Although the North East CTU are keeping an open mind, there are lines of inquiry being progressed with the Turkish authorities, and the possibility of the family attempting to travel to Syria is being explored.

“A primary concern is the safety and welfare of the young children and the safe return of the family.”

Bradford West Labour MP Naz Shah said she had spoken to two of the children’s fathers and described them as “confused”, adding that they had had no contact with the women or children.

She told the BBC: “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.

“The men are very, very distraught. They are confused and did not know what was happening or why it was happening.

“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.”

The Dawood sisters travelled to Medina with their nine children on May 28 to go on a religious pilgrimage.

The children are believed to have flown with their mothers from Medina in Saudi Arabia to Istanbul - a commonly used route into Syria.

They were due to return to the UK on June 11, but broke off all contact with their family in Britain two days earlier on June 9.

Preliminary inquiries suggest that at least 10 members of the family boarded the flight to Turkey that day.

Since then, the family’s mobile phones have been turned off and Facebook and WhatsApp profiles have not been updated.

Mr Khan has said it is understood the sisters have a relative fighting for either Islamic State (IS) or another extremist group in Syria, and it is feared they have met up with him.

He identified the missing children are five-year-old Muhammad Haseeb; Maryam Siddiqui, seven; Ismaeel Iqbal, three; Mariya Iqbal, five; Zaynab Iqbal, eight; Ibrahim Iqbal, 14; Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, 15; Haafiyah Binte Zubair, eight; and five-year-old Nurah Binte Zubair.

Meanwhile, there are mounting calls for action to tackle the radicalisation of teenagers online after 17-year-old Talha Asmal, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was reported to have become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber.

And Thomas Evans, a Muslim convert from Buckinghamshire, is believed to have died in Kenya fighting for extremist group Al Shabaab.

The missing family members. Top, from left: Sugra Dawood, Nurah Binte Zubair, Haafiyah Binte Zubair, Muhammad Haseeb, Maryam Siddiqui. Middle row: Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal, Ismaeel Iqbal. Bottom: Zohra Dawood, Khadiga Bibi Dawood.

The missing family members. Top, from left: Sugra Dawood, Nurah Binte Zubair, Haafiyah Binte Zubair, Muhammad Haseeb, Maryam Siddiqui. Middle row: Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal, Ismaeel Iqbal. Bottom: Zohra Dawood, Khadiga Bibi Dawood.

Khadiga Bibi Dawood (left) with her children Muhammad Haseeb (centre) and Maryam Siddiqui (right)

Khadiga Bibi Dawood (left) with her children Muhammad Haseeb (centre) and Maryam Siddiqui (right)

Sugra Dawood (left) with her children (left to right) Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal

Sugra Dawood (left) with her children (left to right) Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal

Zohra Dawood (left) with her children Nurah Binte Zubair (centre) and Haafiyah Binte Zubair (right)

Zohra Dawood (left) with her children Nurah Binte Zubair (centre) and Haafiyah Binte Zubair (right)

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Picture taken from a family video of the children playing in the snow outside their Bradford home. Picture: Ross Parry Agency