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A teenage girl who fled Britain to join Islamic State has said the Manchester Arena bombing was “justified”.
In an interview with the BBC, Shamima Begum, now 19, said the deaths of 22 innocent people in the terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in 2017 were akin to the “women and children” being bombed in Syria.
She said: “I do feel that it’s wrong that innocent people did get killed. It’s one thing to kill a soldier that is fighting you, it’s self-defence, but to kill the people like women and children.
“Just people like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly, the bombings. It’s a two-way thing really.
“Because women and children are being killed back in the Islamic State right now and it’s kind of retaliation.
“Like, their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought ‘OK, that is a fair justification’.”
The mother-of-three, who gave birth to her third child at the weekend, left east London with two friends in 2015 to join the terrorist group.
She was partly inspired by videos of fighters beheading hostages and partly by other propaganda films showing the “good life” IS could offer.
Since she has been there, her two older children have died. The teenager insisted she did not ask to be the subject of international media attention and didn’t ask to be an IS “poster girl”.
She said: “I didn’t want to be on the news at first. I know a lot of people, after they saw that me and my friends came, it actually encouraged them.
“I did hear, yeah, a lot of people were encouraged to come after I left but I wasn’t the one that put myself on the news. We didn’t want to be on the news.”
UK authorities now face the difficult question of what to do if Ms Begum manages to return to Britain.
Her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, said he anticipated that she would face criminal proceedings upon any return to the UK, but said it was the family’s hope that she would be given professional help following her experience in Syria.
He told BBC Breakfast: “The family have gone out of their way from day one to try to get her away from the IS narrative and the context which she finds herself in.
“She’s been there for four years and we would be surprised if she hadn’t been further damaged beyond the degree she had already been groomed into.
“The family are concerned, as they have been for the last four years, not just to get her away, but, as of yesterday, to make sure that their grandchild – her child – is not influenced by that sort of thinking.”
Earlier, he said the UK has a “moral duty” to let her come home, and compared her to a shellshocked soldier from the First World War.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday, he said: “They said the same thing about First World War soldiers in the middle of shellshock.”
Co-presenter Richard Madeley said the comparison was a “bit of a stretch”.
At the weekend, Mr Akunjee said any attempt to deny Ms Begum “due process” would mean she was being treated worse than Nazi war criminals.
He told The Times: “In terms of the political landscape what she’s saying isn’t helpful [but] she’s somebody who was persuaded to go out there. She will need help. She will obviously have to be de-radicalised.
“The Nazis had the Nuremberg trials. They were given due process. This girl was a victim when she went out there at 15 years old.
“Our politicians are saying that she should be denied protections and due process that would have been granted to Nazis.”
In an interview with Sky News at the weekend, Ms Begum said she did not regret joining IS, and that “people should have sympathy” for her.
She left Bethnal Green in February 2015 with two other schoolgirls, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase.
Ms Begum claimed she was “just a housewife” when she left Britain to join Islamic State in Syria and does not regret her decision.
Ms Begum, who has given birth to a baby boy, accepted she may have made a mistake but told Sky News that living under IS had made her “stronger, tougher”.
The 19-year-old said she had been attracted to go to Syria after seeing news and videos on the internet which emphasised the role of family, adding that her biggest priority now was her son.
But she admitted she knew the group was carrying out beheadings and executions before she left, adding that she was “OK with it at first”.
Asked if she felt she made a mistake travelling to Syria, she said: “In a way, yes, but I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person. It’s made me stronger, tougher, you know.
“I married my husband, I wouldn’t have found someone like him back in the UK.
“I had my kids, I did have a good time there. It’s just that then things got harder and I couldn’t take it any more and I had to leave.”
Ms Begum was speaking next to her newborn son, who she said she had named after her previous son who died, in accordance with her husband’s wishes.
She told The Times last week while heavily pregnant that she wishes to bring up her baby in the UK, and her family have begged for her to be shown mercy and to be allowed to return to east London.
She said she felt “a lot of people should have sympathy for me” as she did not know what she was getting into when she left the UK, before acknowledging that it would be “really hard” to be rehabilitated into British society.
She said: “It would be really hard, everything I have been through.
“I’m still kind of in the mentality of planes over my head and having the emergency backpack and starving and all these things.
“It would be a really big shock to go back to the UK and start a life again.”