The family of a Scottish student who secretly travelled to Syria to join Islamic extremists have told how their teenage daughter was brainwashed by a fanatic she planned to marry.
Glasgow couple Muzaffar and Khalida Mahmood have for the first time revealed their pain after discovering their daughter Aqsa was being radicalised while still a schoolgirl.
The Mahmoods spoke of their shock when they realised their daughter was being groomed for jihad by Adeel Ulhaq, now 21, who has since been jailed for for recruiting another teenager to fight with Islamic State (IS).
Mrs Mahmood described her distress when the family realised Aqsa had gone.
“I never slept,” she said.
“I never died but I felt as though I was dying. My children, my in-laws, my husband, every one of us, cried through the night.
“My baby had gone and nobody was doing anything to stop it.”
Her parents described a devastating series of events, which began when they found a suspicious text in May 2013 and came to a head when their daughter suddenly fled to Aleppo in Syria, via Turkey, the following November.
Mr Mahmood said: “My wife and I had dropped her at the underground thinking she was going to university.
“It was only after five or six o’clock when she hadn’t come home that I got worried. She wasn’t picking up the phone and we started to panic.
“As the night wore on, I got my sister to phone Adeel’s home and spoke to his mother. She told us that Aqsa no longer wanted to stay with us.”
He added: “Adeel was only 19 but, with hindsight, we believe he had radicalised her already. It was always his intention to get her over to Syria.”
The couple have hit out at police, who they believe could have intercepted Aqsa and brought her back.
“My niece called the police and reported her missing but they only sent two uniformed officers around,” said Mrs Mahmood.
“I kept asking them to stop. I said, ‘Bring her home, jail her, do what you have to – at least she will be safe.’”
But officers insisted that because Aqsa was over the age of 18 there was nothing they could do to stop her travelling.
“I will spend the rest of my life wishing they had tried,” Mrs Mahmood added.
“They left after an hour. That night was the worst night of my life.”