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Three missing London schoolgirls believed to have traveled to Turkey as part of an attempt to join ISIS forces have likely reached Syria, British police said Tuesday. Officers leading the investigation into the disappearance of the three teens “now have reason to believe that they are no longer in Turkey and have crossed into Syria,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, boarded a Turkish Airlines flight one week ago at London’s Gatwick Airport at 12:40 p.m. local time, arriving in Istanbul later that evening, according to U.K. counterrorism officials.
Families of the girls begged for them to “please come home” on Saturday. "Syria is a dangerous place and we don't want you to go there," Shamima Begum's family said in a statement. "We understand that you have strong feelings and want to help those you believe are suffering in Syria. Please don't cross the border. Please come home to us."
British police gave no further details but said they are continuing to work closely with Turkish authorities in the investigation.
Officials fear that Aqsa Mahmood, a woman in her early 20s who left Glasgow to marry an ISIS militant in November 2013, may have played a role in recruiting the girls through social media. Mahmood's family condemned her actions in a statement Sunday.
"You are a disgrace to your family and the people of Scotland, your actions are a perverted and evil distortion of Islam," Mahmood's family said. The family added that they were disappointed in authorities for failing to stop the girls from traveling. Thousands of ISIS supporters have reportedly crossed Turkey into Syria in attempts to join the terror network.