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Runaway Islamic State teen Shamima Begum's mum asks UK for 'mercy'

Renu Begum holds a picture of her sister Shamima Begum. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP London, UK Mar 11, 2019, 10.49 PM (IST)

The mother of a London girl who ran away to join the Islamic State group in Syria urged the UK government on Monday to reinstate the teenager's British citizenship after she lost her third child.

A lawyer representing Shamima Begum's family wrote to interior minister Sajid Javid, pleading with him to reverse his February 19 decision to strip her of her British citizenship "as an act of mercy".

Begum, now 19, had asked to return home after giving birth to a son last month in a refugee camp in northeastern Syria, but London refused. The three-week-old baby, Jarrah, has since died from pneumonia.

She has told British media that her two other children died in infancy in Syria.

Begum's fate has sparked heated debate in Britain, which like other countries is facing a dilemma over whether to allow jihadists and IS sympathisers home to face prosecution, or stop them from returning at all.

She was 15 when she left east London for Syria with two other schoolgirls in 2015.

She was found by journalists in a refugee camp after fleeing fighting between the jihadist group and US-backed forces.

She is married to Dutch IS fighter Yago Riedijk, 27, who is now being held in a Kurdish-run detention centre in northeast Syria.

Call for mercy

Urging Javid to reverse his decision, Begum's mother "requests this reconsideration, as an act of mercy", following Jarrah's death, said the letter from law firm Farooq Bajwa and Co.

"It is extremely unlikely that Shamima will be in a fit state to make any rational decisions."

The letter said the family have not been able to contact Begum directly and their request for help from the British government to contact her was refused in writing by the Home Office on March 5.

"There are immediate fears for Shamima's health and safety, and the matter is urgent," the letter said, asking for a response within 24 hours.

The letter was posted on Twitter by lawyer Tasnime Akunjee.

In the wake of the baby's death, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said officials were working on how to rescue British children born to IS runaways.

Hunt said the death of Begum's third child was "an incredibly distressing and sad situation" but that it was too dangerous to dispatch officials to the war zone.

"Shamima knew when she made the decision to join Daesh (IS) she was going to a country where there's no embassy, where there's no consular assistance," he told BBC television on Sunday.

"And I'm afraid those decisions, awful though it is, they do have consequences."

Story highlights

A lawyer representing Shamima Begum's family wrote to interior minister Sajid Javid, pleading with him to reverse his February 19 decision to strip her of her British citizenship 'as an act of mercy'.