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Baby boy of British teenage girl who joined IS dies in Syria

Ms Begum left Bethnal Green, east London, in 2015 to join the Islamic State group in Syria

The baby son of Shamima Begum – who fled London to join the Islamic State group – has died, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces has said.

The group, which runs the camp where the teenager has been living, confirmed the death on Friday.

The baby died of pneumonia, according to a medical certificate. He was less than three weeks old.

Ms Begum left the UK in 2015 with two friends and was found in a Syrian refugee camp in mid-February.

She wanted to return to Britain but was stripped of her citizenship.

Her husband, a Dutch IS fighter called Yago Riedijk, is being held at a nearby prison and has been informed of the baby’s death.

A paramedic working for the Kurdish Red Crescent in and around the camp told the BBC that the baby, called Jarrah, had been suffering from breathing difficulties.

He was taken to a doctor on Thursday morning before being transferred to hospital, along with his mother, but died at 13:30 local time that day, the medical worker added.

Ms Begum has since returned to the camp and her child was buried there yesterday.

A press officer for the SDF – a US-backed, anti-IS group – had earlier said that the baby was alive.

‘Nothing but sympathy’

A government spokesperson said the death of any child was “tragic and deeply distressing for the family”.

They said the government has consistently advised against travelling to Syria and will “continue to do whatever we can to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and travelling to dangerous conflict zones”.

Speaking to the BBC before it was confirmed that the baby had died, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Sadly there are probably many children, obviously perfectly innocent, who have been born in this war zone.”

He added: “I have nothing but sympathy for the children that have been dragged into this. This is a reminder of why it is so, so dangerous for anyone to be in this war zone.”

Ms Begum, 19, gave birth to her son last month, shortly after being tracked down by a journalist in a Syrian refugee camp. She had reportedly left Baghuz – IS’s last stronghold.

Ms Begum said she had previously lost two other children and named her newborn son Jarrah after her firstborn.

As her child was born before she was deprived of UK citizenship by the Home Office, the baby would still be considered British.

Mr Javid previously said that the revocation of Ms Begum’s citizenship would not apply to her son, explaining: “Children should not suffer, so if a parent does lose their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child.”

Earlier on Friday, the lawyer representing the family of Ms Begum, Tasnime Akunjee, said he had “strong but unconfirmed reports” that the baby had died. He later also confirmed the death.

In an interview with the BBC after the birth of Jarrah, Ms Begum said she did not regret travelling to Syria – although she added that she did not agree with everything the IS group had done.

She also said that she never sought to be an IS “poster girl” and simply wished to raise her child quietly in the UK. Ms Begum and two other schoolgirls, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, left Bethnal Green in east London in February 2015.

Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima BegumKadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (l-r) in photos issued by police after they left the UK

After Ms Begum was stripped of her citizenship, her family wrote to the home secretary to say they planned to challenge the decision and asked for assistance to bring her baby to the UK.

Earlier this week, Mr Akunjee tweeted a screenshot of the reply that they had received from the Home Office.

It told them that the possibility of bringing the baby to the UK was a matter for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and that they would need permission from Ms Begum.

The FCO is obliged to consider requests for consular assistance, the letter added.

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said it might have been possible for the government to get the baby out of Syria, although that could have been “politically difficult”.

“The government’s position that it’s impossible to go and get people out of these camps because it’s too dangerous is repeatedly shown to be not entirely accurate, because journalists are being able to get to these camps relatively safely.

“Working with the Red Crescent there for example, it should be possible to go and get people from the camps if there was a political will.”

‘All children linked to IS are victims’

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott criticised the actions of the Home Office. She tweeted: “It is against international law to make someone stateless, and now an innocent child has died as a result of a British woman being stripped of her citizenship. This is callous and inhumane.”

Conservative MP Bob Seely, who sits on the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said he respected the home secretary’s decision not to allow Ms Begum back.

Mr Seely added that Mr Javid had “put down a marker that British citizens, whether they’ve gone to live in the caliphate as either fighters or IS brides and supporters, are not welcome back in the country”.

But he said there was “an argument that Shamima Begum should have been allowed to come back and, if need be, should have been prosecuted” if that had been possible.

He told the BBC: “We don’t know how long it would have taken to get Shamima Begum back even if she’d wanted to.

“It would have been very difficult to move her straight after the birth of her child. And it might be that the child may not have survived the journey.”

Shamima BegumShamima Begum was 15 and living in Bethnal Green, London, when she left the UK four years ago

Kirsty McNeill, head of policy, advocacy and campaigns at the charity Save the Children, said “all children associated with IS are victims of the conflict and must be treated as such”.

She added: “It is possible the death of this baby boy and others could have been avoided. The UK and other countries of origin must take responsibility for their citizens inside north-east Syria.”

A government spokesperson said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has consistently advised against travel to Syria since April 2011.”

BBC

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