Husbands of UK women feared to be in Syria plead for them to come home

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Story highlights

  • Husbands of missing women make tearful pleas for them to return
  • A lawmaker says the women may be trying to join a brother who is in Syria
  • The missing children are between 3 and 15 years old, police say

Bradford, England (CNN)The husbands of British sisters who have gone missing with their children pleaded tearfully Tuesday for their families to come home amid fears they have headed to Syria, which is ravaged by terrorism and war.

"You know, Mariya, I love you. I don't know what to say," said Akhtar Iqbal, the husband of Sugra Dawood, addressing his young daughter at a televised press conference in Britain. "I'm shaking and I miss you. It's been too many days. I don't (know) where you are. Please come back home."
    Then he teared up as he addressed his whole family, "I miss you, I love you, all of you. I love you a lot. I can't live without you. Please, please call me. "
    Three sisters and their nine children from northern England disappeared while on a trip to the Middle East.
    The husbands of two of the sisters appealed for help in tracking the family down amid concerns the sisters could be trying to join a brother in Syria.
    "Please contact me," Mohammad Shoaib begged his wife, Khadija Dawood, at the press conference. "I am not angry. ... They are young kids, 7 and 5. And you know I love you so much."
    The husband of the third sister did not appear, as he is not in the UK.
    Balaal Khan, a lawyer acting for the Dawood family, said the three missing women and their children, ages 3 to 15, had traveled to Saudi Arabia on an Islamic pilgrimage on May 28.
    But instead of returning home to the city of Bradford, in northern England, as expected Thursday, they disappeared.
    They have not been in touch since June 9, and their cell phones have not been active, either. Nor have their social media profiles been updated in the past week, the statement said.
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    The sisters have been named as Khadija Dawood, Sugra Dawood and Zohra Dawood, all in their 30s.
    Khadija Dawood's two children are Maryam Siddiqui, 7, and Muhammad Haseeb, 5; Sugra Dawood's five children are Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, Ibrahim Iqbal, Zaynab Iqbal, Mariya Iqbal and Ismaeel Iqbal, ages 15 to 3; and Zohra Dawood's two children are Haafiyah Binte Zubair, 8, and Nurah Binte Zubair, 5.
    Khan, the lawyer, said all 12 boarded a flight from Medina, Saudi Arabia, to Istanbul on June 9. Early reports that two of the children failed to board the plane were wrong, he said.
    The lawyer told journalists that there were no family problems and the husbands had no clue their wives were about to disappear. The families practice a moderate version of Islam, and there had been no indications of radicalization, he said.
    He said that a trip to Syria was only one possible theory for the family's disappearance. But he mentioned, as well, that there were concerns about how the women had been able to buy tickets from Saudi Arabia to Turkey.

    Lawmaker: Women's brother already in Syria

    In this family photo handout three of the children are seen outside an airport.
    The brother of the three missing women is already in Syria, Naz Shah, a member of Parliament from the Bradford area, told CNN. And that is why the family is so concerned about the whereabouts of the missing women and their children, she said.
    Shah added that she has "never heard of anything remotely like this in Bradford before."
    Turkey has become a popular transit route for people seeking to reach Syria, where ISIS and other opposition groups have been battling the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    Another local Bradford member of Parliament, Imran Hussain, has asked Britain's Foreign Office to help find the family.
    The Foreign Office said: "We are in contact with West Yorkshire police and Turkish authorities and are ready to provide consular assistance."

    Police: Families are 'gravely worried'

    The Dawood family reported the women and children's disappearance to police after they failed to return as expected.
    Officers are investigating their whereabouts and are "working extensively with authorities overseas to try and locate them," a statement from West Yorkshire police said.
    Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: "We are extremely concerned for the safety of the family and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to us.
    "Our priority is for their safe return; their families are gravely worried about them and want them home. One of our primary concerns is the safety and welfare of the young children."
    News of the Dawoods' disappearance came shortly after family members of a teenage boy from West Yorkshire said they were "devastated and heartbroken" after ISIS released a photo showing the 17-year-old in front of an ISIS black flag. There are fears the boy, Talha Asmal from Dewsbury, may have been involved in ISIS suicide attacks near the Iraqi city of Baiji.
    Other teens have also been swept up in the allure of ISIS. Earlier this year, three teenage British girls were seen on airport surveillance footage heading to Syria. A Scottish teenager wrote extensively on her Tumblr account about her love of ISIS. She stunned her family, left the country and became an ISIS bride and recruiter.
    An American teenager from suburban Chicago, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, allegedly was on his way to join ISIS in October when he was stopped at an airport.