What's Driving British Teen Girls to Join ISIS?

Aqsa Mahmood went from 'Harry Potter' fan to radical 'poster girl'
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2015 11:40 AM CST
What's Driving British Teen Girls to Join ISIS?
A still taken from CCTV shows 15-year-old Amira Abase, left, Kadiza Sultana,16, center, and Shamima Begum, 15, going through Gatwick Airport before a flight to Turkey on Feb 17, 2015.   (AP Photo/Metropolitan Police)

Three missing London teenagers appear to have traveled to Syria to join ISIS, despite their parents' impassioned pleas—and one catalyst in the decision may have been a like-minded young woman from Scotland. Aqsa Mahmood, who at 20 is just a few years older than the trio, was once a fan of Harry Potter and Coldplay who wanted a career in health care, the New York Times reports. After leaving home in 2013, she's now likely based in Raqqa, Syria, working to recruit other young women from the UK to join ISIS. A tweet from one of the London teens, Shamima Begum, to a person identified as Mahmood may have played a role in the teens' disappearance.

Mahmood's family calls her a "disgrace" in a statement, noting that "your actions are a perverted and evil distortion of Islam … You are killing your family every day with your actions. They are begging you to stop if you ever loved them." It's unclear how Mahmood's extremist views developed; she "was very intelligent, very liked, very bubbly, kind, caring," says a lawyer for her family. But "it is those young people who are liked, who are smart, who think, who are caring, who are ripe for radicalization," the lawyer tells the Times. Now she's "a poster girl in Britain for recruitment," he says. As for the London teens, police say they likely entered Syria several days ago, the BBC reports. There, says a BBC correspondent, they may be "out of reach" of British and Turkish officials. (More ISIS stories.)

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