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Officials Seize UK Teenager's Passport After Her Schoolfriends Fled to the Islamic State

The unnamed 16-year-old London schoolgirl may may have been "intimately involved" in details of one of the teenagers who made the trip to Syria earlier in the year.
August 19, 2015, 12:30pm
Image via London Metropolitan Police

A girl from the same school attended by three British teenagers who left London to join the Islamic State (IS) group in February has now had her passport confiscated by the UK High Court .

The 16-year-old pupil at Bethnal Green Academy, who must remain anonymous according to court instructions, was ordered to hand her passport on Tuesday over after Judge Mr. Justice Hayden heard the girl may have been "intimately involved" in details of one of the girls who made the trip to Syria earlier in the year.

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The passports of the teenager's sisters must also be held by an officer of the court and only returned for approved journeys abroad.

Praising the "strong family unit," the judge said that the family should not regard the measures as a punishment, and the passports would be made available if their travel plans were accepted by the counter-terrorism unit.

"This strikes me as a very minor infringement into their family life in order to prevent the possibility of a very grave ill," he said.

Watch the VICE News documentary, The Girls Who Fled To Syria: Groomed By The Islamic State here:

Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, disappeared from their homes in mid-February, re-emerging in Islamic State-held territory days later. Their families criticized the UK police for acting slowly to disclose details that may have enabled them to intervene and prevent the girls' departure.

Multiple sources revealed to VICE News that another Bethnal Green Academy schoolgirl — Sharmeena Begum, who traveled to join IS in December 2014 — had been attempting to radicalize the three girls.

The unnamed schoolgirl in this most recent case is believed to be a close friend of the four. Hayden heard that she may have been involved in certain steps taken by Sharmeena — the first pupil to leave East London for Syria.

The identity of the girl must remain secret until she is 18, according to Hayden, so that she can finish her childhood and complete her education in peace. She was refused a life-long anonymity order, but told the issue may be reconsidered before she turns 18.

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The order follows a decision to designate five 15- and 16-year-olds who attended the same school as "wards of court" — or placed under court protection — to prevent them departing for Syria, lodged by social services at the London borough of Tower Hamlets in March.

Related: Left in the Dark: The Story Behind the Families of Three Girls Groomed by the Islamic State

The court heard that the girl, described by Hayden as "impressive and intelligent," was one of the first to be made a ward of court.

"Where that is a measure taken to secure the safety of their sister, it seems to me to be one relatively minor consequence," the judge said. "We are seeking to protect from a risk of very great magnitude, for we know that those who travel to ISIS to participate in jihad risk their own lives."

The family of three sisters and their parents were all present in court. Speaking through an interpreter, her father told him she was expecting her GCSE results this week.

The judge added: "Who knows, one day she might be sitting in this chair — I would like to think she could. This is a strong family unit, which cares for each other and puts great priority on personal accomplishment and academic achievement."

Follow Ben Bryant on Twitter: @benbryant