British IS bride Shamima Begum 'gives birth' in Syria

British IS bride Shamima Begum 'gives birth' in Syria
Shamima Begum, the London teenager who left the UK territories controlled by the Islamic State group, has given birth in Syria, her family says.
3 min read
17 February, 2019
Shamima Begum ran away from London to join IS with two friends in 2015. [Getty]

A British teenager who left the UK to join the Islamic State group has given birth in Syria, her family said on Sunday.

The family's lawyer said they had been informed that Shamima Begum, 19, and her child - a boy - were both in "good health".

"As yet we not had direct contact with Shamima, we are hoping to establish communications with her soon so that we can verify the above," the statement said.

The fate of the London teenager has prompted soul searching in the UK since she and two friends created international headlines by running away to join the militants in 2015.

The 19-year-old was found in a Syrian refugee camp last week by a reporter from The Times.

She said in an interview with the newspaper that she had escaped from Baghuz, the last IS stronghold in eastern Syria, two weeks ago and wanted to return to the UK for her baby.

Her husband, a Dutch convert to Islam, surrendered to Syrian fighters as they left. Begum had two other children while in Syria, but both died.

Begum told The Times about seeing "beheaded heads" in bins but said that it "did not faze her".

She said she did not regret joining the Islamic State group, with her fate highlighting the challenges faced by Western governments on how to deal with returning IS fighters.

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.

"My message is clear - if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return," Home Secretary Sajid Javid told The Times.

However, Alex Younger, the head of Britain's foreign intelligence agency, MI6, said that being a British national she had the right to return but could expect possible prosecution if she did so.

Her case has also sharply divided the British press.

Former MI6 chief Richard Barrett argued on Begum's behalf in an opinion piece for the left-leaning Guardian paper.

"Like it or not, these individuals were products of our society, and it would make sense to take a good, hard look at why they turned their backs on it in such dramatic fashion," Barrett wrote.

But right-leaning newspapers called on the authorities to keep Begum out.

"No regret. No remorse. No entry," The Sun tabloid declared on its front page.

The government does not have the power to ban Begum because she still has a British passport and has not been convicted of a crime.

But authorities could prosecute her or issue a special security notice that would see her detained on arrival at a UK airport.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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