CBSN

U.K. schoolgirl "jihadi bride" apparently killed in anti-ISIS strike

British teenage girls Shamima Begun, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana (L-R) walk through security at London's Gatwick Airport before they boarded a flight to Turkey, Feb. 17, 2015, in combination picture made from handout still images taken from CCTV and released by the Metropolitan Police.

Reuters

LONDON -- One of three London schoolgirls who traveled to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) territory in Syria to become "jihadi brides" is believed to have been killed in an airstrike, a lawyer for her family says.

Tasnime Akunjee told the BBC that Kadiza Sultana's family had been told that she died in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa several weeks ago. He said the family was "devastated."

He said the death has not been confirmed. Akunjee did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.

Sultana was 16 when she and classmates Shamima Begum and Amira Abase -- both 15 -- traveled to Syria in February 2015 without telling their families. Their distraught relatives made emotional public appeals for them to come back.

ITV News, which first reported Sultana's death on Thursday, broadcast phone calls between Sultana and her sister in Britain, in which Sultana said she wanted to return to Britain but could see no way of escape.

"I don't have a good feeling. I feel scared," Sultana said in one call. "You know the borders are closed right now, so how am I going to get out?"

Her sister, Hamila Khanom, told ITV: "We were expecting this in a way. But at least we know she is in a better place."

Akunjee told ITV the only good that could come of Sultana's death would be as "a testimony for others of the risks of actually going to a war zone, to dissuade people from ever making that choice."

U.K. police estimate at least 800 Britons have traveled to join or support ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and dozens of them have been killed.

The recruitment message from ISIS, also known as ISIL, is slick, well-produced and effective. It targets impressionable Muslim teenagers in the West who often feel they don't quite fit in with the society around them. But for young women, it's not just the battle that beckons.

"Becoming wives of fighters seems to be a common thing; to take part in ISIL activities in that way, by marrying and producing children, jihadist children, or becoming part of the fight themselves," Steven Pomerantz, a former chief of counterterrorism at the FBI, told CBS News in October.

"We are concerned about the numbers of girls and young women who have or are intending to travel" to ISIS territory in Syria, London Metropolitan Police commander Richard Walton said on Friday.

As CBS News' Clarissa Ward reported in December, the girls who heed ISIS' call are often educated and from middle-class backgrounds. Rarely do their families know what is happening until it is too late. The phenomenon has been dubbed "bedroom jihad," and dozens of girls have been lured to one of the most dangerous war zones in the world as a result.

"The choice of returning home from Syria is often taken away" from young women and girls who travel to ISIS territory, said Walton, adding that if British authorities are able to find them while they're still in Turkey, "we have a good possibility of being able to bring them home to their families."