Families in ‘profound state of shock’ after teens fled to Syria

Hassan Munshi, left, and Talha Asmal who are believed to have travelled to Syria.Hassan Munshi, left, and Talha Asmal who are believed to have travelled to Syria.
Hassan Munshi, left, and Talha Asmal who are believed to have travelled to Syria.
The families of two teenage boys believed to have travelled to Syria said they were “in a state of profound shock” and were extremely concerned about the safety of the “ordinary Yorkshire lads”.

The 17-year-olds, Hassan Munshi and Talha Asmal, both from Dewsbury, are thought to have fled to the war-torn country after travelling to Turkey on March 31.

They were last seen by their families on that day when they are believed to have flown from Manchester to Dalaman.

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Hassan – a former pupil of Dewsbury’s Westborough High School – and Talha – a pupil at Mirfield Free Grammar’s sixth form – are now thought to have crossed the border into Syria.

A statement released by their families said they were “devastated by the events of the last few days” and “extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our loved ones”.

They said: “Our number one priority is to get Hassan and Talha back home with their families and we implore anyone who may have any information whatsoever to get in contact with the police.

“Naturally, we are in a state of profound shock and are trying to come to terms with the predicament we find ourselves in and we hope and pray that no other family finds itself in our situation.

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“These were just two ordinary Yorkshire lads who enjoyed the things that all young people enjoy at their age – both Hassan and Talha had a promising future as an apprentice and an A-level student respectively, and we are praying they will be back with us soon and are able to realise that future.

“We would implore all parents to be extra vigilant, although, as we found, it’s near impossible to know your children have been groomed and brainwashed. Syria is a frightening war-torn place and we need to urgently educate our young children about the dangers posed by those who prey on impressionable teenagers.”

Hassan Munshi is thought to be a relative of Hammaad Munshi, branded Britain’s youngest terrorist after he was recruited by a terror cell at the age of just 15.

Police would not confirm the report, but a friend of Munshi’s grandfather, Yakub Munshi, said the family would be “deeply shocked and upset”.

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Shabbir Daji, trustee of the Markazi mosque in Savile Town, Dewsbury, said: “It’s a great surprise. All of the mosques discourage this kind of radicalisation. It is a personal act, an individual choice.

“I know Mr Munshi well, he would be deeply shocked and very upset. He would never condone this sort of thing. He is a friend of mine, he would definitely discourage it. He will take care of everything now, he will be so serious about this matter. He will be deeply concerned.”

West Yorkshire Police and the North East Counter Terrorism Unit said they were “extremely concerned” for the safety of the two teenagers and urged anyone with information to come forward.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom added: “Syria is an extremely dangerous place and the public will be aware of the dangers these boys may face.

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“The choice of returning home from Syria is often taken away from those that come under the control of Islamic State, leaving their families in the UK devastated and with very few options to secure their safe return.”