Manchester twins who joined IS detained, after attempting to flee Syria refugee camp

Manchester twins who joined IS detained, after attempting to flee Syria refugee camp
Twin sisters Zahra and Salma Halane, who went to Syria to join IS reportedly escaped a refugee camp before being arrested.
2 min read
25 August, 2020
The Twins are in a detention centre [Getty]
Twin sisters from Manchester, who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State group as teenagers, are currently being held in a Syrian high-security detention centre after being caught attempting to flee a refugee camp, media have reported.

Zahra and Salma Halane, then aged-16, left their family home in Manchester in 2014 and headed for territories held by the Islamic State group.
The two girls first flew to Turkey before crossing the border into Syria, which alerted the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) to investigate their reason for travel.

The pair had planned to flee to Denmark, where they were both born.

Having spent time in the IS territories, they eventually escaped during the Battle for Baghouz last year, the last IS hold-out in Syria. They spent the following 16 months at the Al-Hol refugee camp in the north of the country.

Zahra was there with her sister and her son, as well as thousands of former IS members.

"I had never thought of leaving. Things were good. We had WHO [the World Health Organisation] checking, me and my sister but the situation became very bad," Salma said, speaking to ITV News from the detention centre.

"The water is yellow, I am suffering, I have injuries on me and my nephew and my sister, she has injuries on her head," she said.

"We tried our best to go to hospital, we tried our best to do something for our health. So it was like survival of the fittest. We wanted to go to a better care."

Her sister Zahra said she decided to leave due to the bad conditions at the camp that were impacting her young son.

"I was looking at my son because we are all injured. Me and my son and my sister, we are injured people and we was getting sick and I've seen many people in Al-Hol leaving - many women are leaving, leaving, leaving," Zahra said.

Zahra said she had been radicalised online.

"On my phone, you know Instagram and this. And I was just reading about Islam, 2014 you have to come to Shām [Syria] and help Syrian people," Zahra explained.

The Home Office revoked the twins' right to British residency, and both women wish to be repatriated to Denmark – saying they have given up on IS ideology completely.

Salma said: "We have nothing to do with the Islamic State." 

"I see myself as a victim. I am not happy about the Islamic State."

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