The family of a teenage girl who left Britain to join ISIS in Syria in 2015 say they are “heartbroken” and have appealed for Britain to show “compassion and understanding”.
Mohammed Rehman, brother-in-law of Shamima Begum who fled the UK to go to Syria aged 15, said the family had mixed emotions on the sudden reappearance of Ms Begum.
"We are happy that she's alive, but sad that things have come to this. She's lost two children and put us all through a lot of heartache", he told the Daily Telegraph.
Mr Rehman said the family thought she was dead at one stage.
“I can understand why people in this country are angry and don’t want her back,” he said.
“What she’s done doesn’t portray Islam in a good light. But she was only 15 when she went to Syria.”
Shamima Begum is one of three British schoolgirls who fled for Syria to join and marry ISIS fighters.
Now aged 19 and heavily pregnant, Ms Begum told The Times newspaper in an interview that she felt no remorse about her actions.
“I don’t regret coming here,” she said in an interview that has sparked debate on whether Britain should allow Ms Begum to return to the UK to deliver her unborn child and face trial, or potentially be left in the Syrian refugee camp where she is currently staying.
It is believed that Ms Begum spoke to her mother on the phone for the first time since leaving, following the publication of the interview on Thursday.
Abase Hasan, the father of another schoolgirl who fled the UK to join ISIS, said Britain’s government must not punish the 19-year-old on account of her age.
“They were just teenagers when they left. They should be allowed to learn from their mistakes”.
After arriving in Raqqa, Ms Begum married a 27-year-old Dutch man who had converted to Islam. The couple escaped from Bagouz – the last remaining enclave of extremists in eastern Syria – two weeks ago.
While her husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters as they left, she is now in a camp in northern Syria
UK officials were non-committal over the potential repatriation of Ms Begum. Ben Wallace, the security minister, said she had the right to return to her country but insisted any members of ISIS would be interviewed and potentially prosecuted.
With consular assistance available to British citizens in Syria, Ms Begum would have to somehow make her way to Turkey or Iraq, added Mr Wallace.
"I'm not putting at risk British people's lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state," he told the BBC. The security minister said her lack of repentance was concerning.
Reports in Britain suggest US officials are fed up of Britain’s ‘soft’ stance against terrorists and readying Guantanamo Bay as a potential location to house British ISIS fighters.