Kadiza Sultana, one of three pupils who left the UK together to join jihadis, is thought to have been killed while planning to flee.

A schoolgirl who fled Britain last year to join Islamic State is believed to have been killed in an airstrike in Syria, apparently while planning to escape.

Kadiza Sultana, who left her east London home in Bethnal Green during the half-term break in February 2015 with friends Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, is thought to have died during an airstrike on the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa in May this year, ITV News reported.

Her sister Halima Khanom said in a statement to the channel: “We were expecting this, in a way. But at least we know she is in a better place.”

Tasnime Akunjee, solicitor for the family, told the Guardian they believed she had been killed, probably several weeks ago.

The three schoolgirls, aged 15 and 16 when they caught a flight from Gatwick to Turkey and a bus to the Syrian border, were gifted students at the Bethnal Green academy before being lured by Isis propaganda, abandoning their A-level courses and families to marry jihadis in Syria.

Citing conversations with her family and Raqqa residents, ITV said Sultana had become disillusioned with life in the city and had been planning to try to make her way back across the border and eventually to Britain.

“It is believed she was killed before she could flee, after the property she was staying in was obliterated by the airstrike in May,” the channel said in a statement.

The British Foreign Office said it could not confirm the report. “The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria,” it said in a statement. “As all UK consular services there are suspended, it is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.”

ITV said it had not been able to confirm all details because of the ongoing conflict, but it believed the teenager had been inside a residential building when it was hit by an airstrike, probably from a Russian bomber.

Akunjee said on Thursday: “The family are devastated. A number of sources have said that she has been killed and she has not been in contact with the family for several weeks. Over a year ago, she had been talking about leaving. There was a plan to get her out.”

The plan to extract the teenager is understood not to have involved the British and Turkish authorities. One massive dilemma any Isis recruit who wants to leave faces is the brutal revenge the group will exact if they are captured. One European female caught trying to flee is reported to have been publicly beaten to death by Isis.

Khanom told ITV in an interview recorded earlier that Sultana’s situation there had changed. “The way she used to communicate with me … The way she used to talk about things has totally changed … She’s scared of being there,” Khanom said.

In a phone conversation with her sister recorded by ITV shortly before her death, Sultana said: “I don’t have a good feeling. I feel scared.” Asked why, she replied: “If something goes wrong, that’s it. I will never be with you.”

She added: “You know the borders are closed right now, so how am I going to get out?” She said she would never be able to cross territory held by the Kurdish PKK forces inside Syria to reach the border and had “zero” confidence she would be able to get out. At the end of the conversation, she asked: “Where is mum? I want to speak to her.”

The loss of the three girls, who followed a friend who had earlier left for Syria, was a major blow to the Muslim community in east London and a powerful indication of how strong the lure of Isis can be. 

They plotted the trip together, according to material recovered by investigators, making a shopping list of items to take with them and then deceiving their families.

The items for their escape to Syria ranged from a mobile phone to underwear, makeup and an epilator. Plane tickets to get them to Turkey are listed at just over £1,000. The list appears to be consistent with an Isis online guide for potential recruits.

All four girls married fighters approved by Isis – including an Australian and a US national – and two became widows within months of arriving in Syria, their families were told.

In March last year, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the teenagers could return home without fear of being prosecuted for terrorism, as long as no evidence emerged of them being engaged in violence.

Akunjee told ITV: “Leaving Isis is like trying to escape from Alcatraz, with a shoot-to-kill order added in ... Perhaps the only benefit out of this is as a tombstone and a testimony for others of the risks of actually going to a war zone, to dissuade people from ever making that choice.”


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