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The distraught family of a teenage medical student believed to be in Syria is receiving moral support from West Norfolk Islamic Association during their anxious wait for news.

Lena Mamoun Abdel-Gadir, 19, from Ashwicken, is among a group of nine students studying in Sudan which is believed to have ventured into Islamic State-controlled territory on a humanitarian mission.

Azam Gabbair, president of the King’s Lynn-based association, yesterday said the community was confident they had gone to help, not to fight.

“We know Lena to be a kind, loving compassionate and considerate girl, who has always gone out of her way to help others, hence the reason she was studying to be a doctor,” he said.

“Growing up here, she was a popular and bright pupil – very involved in school and community life. What is clear to us is that Lena’s motivation in travelling was to bring medical relief and aid to the people of Syria.

“These young people who have gone to Syria are all doctors, motivated to help, not to fight.”

Miss Abdel-Gadir, whose father, Mamoun Abdel-Gadir is a consultant surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn, studied at Khartoum University of Medical Sciences and Technology.

Mr Abdel-Gadir is thought to be in Turkey trying to track his daughter.

Mr Gabbair continued: “Right now, our thoughts are with Mr Abdel-Gadir and his family, who are very well respected and established in the community and beyond. We hope and pray that Lena is able to make a safe and speedy return.

“We would like to thank Henry Bellingham for all of his support during this difficult time for the family.”

The former Wisbech Grammar School pupil is believed to have crossed the border from Turkey to treat Syrian civilians earlier this month.

North West Norfolk MP Mr Bellingham said Miss Abdel-Gadir could be in a “very dangerous” part of the world and her  family was “very distraught”.

He has asked the Foreign Office to support her parents, who are desperate to get a message to their daughter asking her to return home.

“I am keen for the family to be provided with as much consular support as possible,” said Mr Bellingham.

“We need to get some idea of what is happening to these students. I think they have been brain-washed, I would not say they have been radicalised.

“It is also incredibly important that every centre of learning, including schools in the Islamic world, warn students of the dangers of going to Syria.

“Even though they will be told the work is purely medical, they are nonetheless being persuaded to go into an incredibly dangerous war zone.”

A QEH spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Abdel-Gadir and his family at this difficult time.”