Three London teens on their winter break are believed to have skipped town and headed to Syria to join up with ISIS, British police said today, per the BBC. Shamima Begum, 15, and two classmates—Kadiza Sultana, 16, and a 15-year-old friend whose parents asked for anonymity—reportedly got on a plane at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday and flew to Istanbul. They had given their families "plausible reasons" for disappearing for the day, police say, but Shamima and the other 15-year-old were reported missing by Tuesday night; Kadiza was called in on Wednesday morning. Their families are said to be "devastated," according to Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command unit, but they're hoping the girls may still be in Turkey and that they'll see social media pleas for them to return.
"[Syria] is an extremely dangerous place, and we have seen reports of what life is like for them and how restricted their lives become," Walton said, per the Guardian. "The choice of returning home from Syria is often taken away from those under the control of [the] Islamic State, leaving their families in the UK … with very few options to secure their safe return." To assure the girls that it's their safety that's paramount, the Metropolitan Police also tweeted a statement from Walton today that said, "This is not about criminalizing people, this is about preventing tragedies," as well as listing a number to call for the girls or anyone who knows where they may be.