Cousin attacks parents feared heading for Syria 'war zone' with five children


Two parents feared to be heading for Syria with their five children have been criticised by a family member for trying to take their family into "a war zone".

Urgent appeals have been made for information about Imran Ameen, 39, his wife, Farzana Ameen, 40, and their five children, aged between five and 15, from Bradford.

It is believed the missing family of seven, last seen on October 5, are trying to get to Syria and have bought a one-way ticket to Turkey, a senior police officer said.

Those fears were echoed by West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster who told the BBC: "The indication is that they have got a one-way ticket.

"We know from previous experience that Turkey is a gateway to Syria and also Iraq."

Arshid Siddique, first cousin of both Imran and Farzana Ameen, who lives across the road, said: "I knew there was something not right here, then your worst fears are confirmed.

"My worst fears are they are going to a war zone, not for them, they are adults, it's for the kids.

"I can't understand it. I have three kids of my own, it beggars belief any mother or father would want to take their children to a war zone for whatever reason."

Mr Siddique said about two weeks ago Farzana Ameen took her mother back to live in Pakistan where her brother lives, then returned to Bradford.

She then told extended family that her husband, who worked selling car parts online, had a job lined up in Dubai and they were leaving imminently but without giving a definite date.

Mr Siddique said the rest of the family said their goodbyes then the family disappeared overnight, with no contact to say they had arrived in Dubai or how they were settling in to their new life.

He continued: "I think it was maybe a week and then the cops turned up. In the meantime there's been family thinking 'What's going on here?' We have not heard anything from them."

Mr Siddique said Farzana's brother in Pakistan is "heartbroken" and that he telephoned him to tell him what was happening.

When her brother rang Farzana, Mr Siddique said she told him: "I'm doing the best for my kids."

He said the family prayed five times each day but in his view neither adults were particularly religious. Imran he described as "quiet" before adding: "God only knows now, with the internet."

He said Farzana did not wear a face veil and had more English friends than Asian ones however he said their eldest girl, aged 15, was pulled out of school for home education.

He added: "We should have seen the signs. Even at that time there was something telling me something was not right. I never thought it was anything to do with what she has now done.

"I hope and pray for safe return, they will face the music but it is not about them, it's about the kids."

Plain clothes police today visited the father of Imran Ameen, who lives in the house next door to the family home, a well-kept three-bedroom, semi-detached house.

Officers spent an hour inside Mr Ameen's father's house before leaving without comment to Press outside.

Earlier this year sisters Khadija Dawood, 30, Sugra Dawood, 34, and Zohra Dawood, 33, also from Bradford, went missing after going on an Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with their nine children.

It is believed they entered Syria to join the Islamic State group.

West Yorkshire Police said they were working with relatives who are still in the UK as well with the Turkish authorities to try and secure their safe return.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said he did not know the family but appealed for the community to tell the police any relevant information.

Mr Ahmed told BBC Radio Leeds: "I think West Yorkshire Police are right in making an appeal to the community and if there is anyone in the community who has information about the whereabouts of this family it's important that they give that information to the police so the police can do whatever needs to be done to make sure the children are safe."

Asked if his organisation had done enough, following the disappearance of the Dawood family, he said: "I think over the years and months we have worked with our membership through mosques and through our faith schools and through other community relations to basically emphasise to individuals and families that Syria not a safe place for anyone to travel.

"And, particularly, it's not a safe place for young people and therefore I think people would be taking a great risk if they were to flee and go to that part of the world under the current circumstances."

He said: "We need to know more more information regarding this family - about their whereabouts and what their motivation may be.

"But generally I think people are listening and are taking our message very seriously but we need to go on and we need to keep on pushing this message."