'The caliphate is over' | The Daily Star
12:46 AM, February 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:54 AM, February 15, 2019

'The caliphate is over'

Unrepentant UK schoolgirl who ran away to join IS wants to 'come home'

An unrepentant British teenager who joined the Islamic State group in Syria said in an interview yesterday that she wants to come home, highlighting the challenge for Western governments on how to deal with returning jihadist supporters.

Shamima Begum, who ran away from London with two school friends in 2015, spoke to The Times from a refugee camp where she had fled the collapse of the IS group's "caliphate" in eastern Syria.

Now 19, she expressed no regrets about joining the jihadists but said that two of her children were dead and she was now heavily pregnant.

"I just could not endure any more," she told the newspaper.

Begum made headlines around the world when, aged just 15, she left to join the jihadists with friends from Bethnal Green in east London. Another girl from the same school had run away the year before.

One girl, Kadiza Sultana, has been reported killed.

Begum said the other two, Sharmeena Begum -- no relation -- and Amira Abase stayed on in Baghouz, where IS fighters are making their last stand to hold on to the proto-state they declared in 2014.

"They were strong. I respect their decision," Begum said of her friends.

She added: "I'm not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don't regret coming here."

The British authorities estimate around 900 Britons travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the conflict, of whom around 300-400 have since returned -- and 40 have been prosecuted. As of last month, around 200 were believed to still be alive and in the region.

Speaking to Sky News, Security Minister Ben Wallace said it was "worrying" that Begum had not expressed regret about going to Syria.

Begum married a Dutch fighter soon after arriving in Syria. Begum fled with her husband, but he surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters allied to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

"The caliphate is over," she said, adding that "there was so much oppression and corruption that I don't think they deserved victory".

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