Bradford Syria children
Top row from left: Zohra Dawood and her children Haafiyah Binte Zubair, 8 and Nurah Binte Zubair, 5; Khadija Dawood and her children Maryam Siddiqui, 7, and Muhammad Haseeb, 5. Bottom row from left: Sugra Dawood and her children Junaid Ahmed Iqbal, 15, Ibrahim Iqbal, 14, Zaynab Iqbal, 8, Mariya Iqbal, 5, and Ismaeel Iqbal, 3Khan Solicitors

Community leaders in Bradford have expressed their shock at the disappearance of a family of 12 in Turkey amid reports they may have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (Isis).

The 12 family members – sisters Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood and their nine children aged between 3-15 years – were reported missing on 11 June after they vanished following a pilgrimage to Medina in Saudi Arabia

The children's fathers have said they fear the three sisters crossed over the Turkish frontier after boarding a flight to Istanbul to join IS or another militant group.

In the tight-knit Muslim community of Bradford where Khadija, Sugra, Zohra and their children lived all their lives, locals have expressed dismay at the disappearance and news the outwardly normal sisters may have been radicalised.

Local Labour councillor Mohammed Amran told IBTimes UK the Dawoods came from a well-known and respected family. "They came from a large family, had lived there for years and had relatives around," he said.

The Dawood family has its roots in the traditionally conservative Pathan community located on the India/Pakistan border, but this was not reflected in their day-to-day lives. "Their kids went to normal schools and they wore normal clothes, there was nothing odd about them," Amran continued.

"I am really shocked and so are people who knew them because they have said they would have never imagined them going there.

"There were no signs. There were no signs of them giving out literature; you get kids who talk about jihad and going to war and talk about Israel's policies or foreign policy but there was none of that," he added.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, an independent councillor and spokesman for the Bradford Council For Mosques, told IBTimes UK the community was concerned in the first instance about the well-being of the missing children.

"We are missing some very young children from the age of three to 15 whose welfare is of grave concern to us," he said.

"We are saying to the community if anyone has any knowledge or they are privy to the family's plans then it is important that these people come forward so that we can work with these agencies to safeguard the well-being of the children."

Ahmed said authorities needed to ascertain what exactly had happened in Turkey as it was not unusual for pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia to stop off in Istanbul. "This is not an exceptional route," he said.

Ahmed added it was known within the community that a male relative of the family, an uncle or a brother, was fighting with an extremist group in Syria and that this may have driven the Dawoods to travel to Syria.

He explained that there was a rift between two of the sisters and their husbands. "One is divorced and the other one is estranged," he said.

Lawyers acting for the fathers of the missing children have said they are concerned the group has travelled to Syria and have said that one of the sisters' brothers is fighting with an extremist group, possibly IS, in Syria.

West Yorkshire Police has confirmed the North East Counter Terrorism Unit is leading the investigation into the missing Dawood family from Bradford and that "the possibility of the family attempting to travel to Syria is being explored".

The terrorism unit has been brought in because of its experience and ability to liaise with international law enforcement authorities and agencies.