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, 3 Khan Solicitors

The parents of three British sisters have said they do not support the actions of their daughters, who are believed to have fled to Syria with their nine children to join the Islamic State.

Sisters Khadija Dawood, Sugra Dawood and Zohra Dawood failed to return from a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia with their children, aged three to 15.

Instead of returning to the UK, they flew on 9 June from Medina to Istanbul in Turkey - a route commonly used to enter Syria. At that point they disappeared and their mobile phones were switched off.

They were reported missing after they did not arrive at Manchester Airport on 11 June as expected.

This has caused great distress to the family and has also stopped us from living a normal life in the UK since this incident.
- Parents of missing sisters

It is feared the Bradford family has crossed into Syria to join Islamic State (Isis), with police believing one of the women may have already made it into the war-torn country.

The women's parents said in a statement they are "devastated by the sudden disappearance" and do not support the women's actions.

"This has caused great distress to the family and has also stopped us from living a normal life in the UK since this incident," they said.

Expressing their concerns for the children, they said: "We are very worried about the children who could now be in a dangerous place. We do not support the actions of the sisters leaving their husbands and families in the UK and of taking their children into a war zone where life is not safe to join any group."

They urged anyone thinking of making such a journey not to go.

The parents' statement on Thursday (18 June) followed an emotional appeal earlier in the week by the distraught husbands of two of the sisters, who begged them to come home.

Akhtar Iqbal, the husband of Sugra Dawood, said: "I miss you, and love you. I cannot live without you."

It is alleged that at least two of the sisters were involved in unhappy arranged marriages to the men who arrived from the ultra-conservative Pathan community in Pakistan.

The third husband, married to Zohra, is not currently living in the UK after their marriage reportedly became estranged.

Bradford family
Akhtar Iqbal (L), husband of Sugra Dawood, and Mohammed Shoaib, husband of Khadija Dawood, at a news conference in Bradford Getty

Following their disappearance, it emerged the women's brother, Ahmed Dawood, had previously left the UK for Syria to fight with Islamic State militants.

A neighbour of the Dawood family in Bradford, who would not give her name, says the man got married in Pakistan before he went to Syria "about two years ago".

Police said on Wednesday ( 17 June) that one of the sisters had made contact with a member of her family in the UK, but suggested the group was already in Syria.

The women had previously attempted to leave in March, booking a trip along the same route for the entire group of 12, but were stopped at the airport at the last minute after security checks.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed the North East Counter Terrorism Unit (NECTU) is now leading the investigation.

Anyone with information about the missing Bradford women should call West Yorkshire Police on 101.