A runaway teenager, who joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group but now wants to return home in the United Kingdom, has given birth to a boy in Syria, according to her family.
The baby and Shamima Begum, 19, who fled to join the ISIL with two female friends in 2015, are in good health, said the statement published on Twitter by family lawyer Mohammed Akunjee.
“We, the family of Shamima Begum, have been informed that Shamima has given birth to her child,” it said. “As yet we have not had direct contact with Shamima, we are hoping to establish communications with her soon so that we can verify the above.”
Akunjee told the AFP news agency the family had learned about the birth from a translator in an eastern Syria refugee camp where Begum is currently staying.
Begum had previously given birth to two other children, but both died during her time in Syria, she told The Times earlier this week.
Her case has highlighted the challenge for Western governments of dealing with returning supporters of violent groups, after she told the newspaper that she wanted to raise her new baby in the UK.
Begum has expressed no regrets about joining the group and leading politicians have said they will try to stop her return.
The fresh focus on the case came as the British government appeared divided on how to respond to the demands from US President Donald Trump that European nations take back hundreds of ISIL fighters captured in Syria.
Trump said late on Saturday that the US was asking Britain and other European allies “to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial”.
The demand came as he prepared to declare the end of the group’s so-called “caliphate”, with US-led Arab and Kurdish forces close to capturing its last territorial holdout in Syria, before a pullout of the American troops.
The prospect has increased concerns about experienced fighters escaping and forming new cells in Syria or beyond, with the US allies grappling for weeks with how to respond.
UK’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, a former attorney general – the country’s chief legal adviser, told the BBC on Sunday that it was “obliged, at some stage at least, to take them back”.
Noting it was “a matter of international law and domestic law”, he said: “It doesn’t mean either that we can’t seek to hold them to account for their behaviour thus far.”
However, writing in the Sunday Times under the headline “if you run away to join ISIS, I will use all my power to stop you coming back”, Interior Minister Sajid Javid insisted the government should strip “dangerous individuals of their British citizenship”.
He noted Britain had already exercised this power more than 100 times.
“In considering what actions need to be taken now, I have to think about the safety and security of children living in our country,” he wrote.
Akunjee said on Sunday Javid was “misunderstanding the law” and that Britain had a responsibility towards Begum and her newborn child. “A parent has responsibility and so does Britain,” he said.