West Norfolk teenager believed to be in Syria “doing what she believes is right”, says family friend

The smiling selfie that Lena Mamoun Abdel-gadir sent to her sister before she entered Syria.

The smiling selfie that Lena Mamoun Abdel-gadir sent to her sister before she entered Syria. - Credit: Photograph: PA

The west Norfolk teenager believed to be in an area of Syria controlled by Islamic State (IS) is 'doing what she believes is right', according to a family friend.

Lena Mamoun Abdel-Gadir, 19, sent a smiling selfie to her sister as she crossed the border into the country earlier this month with nine British medical students.

Her father, Mr Mamoun Abdel-Gadir, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, is understood to be in Turkey with the other parents in a bid to bring them back home.

Yesterday, family friends and his former patients offered their overwhelming support and urged people not to be too harsh when judging the situation.

'The family are all very lovely people,' said a family friend who did not wish to be named. 'The caring, gentle and genuine nature of their father is reflected across each family member.

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'I can't imagine her [Miss Abdel-Gadir] going to Syria, but it appears she has gone to save lives rather than kill people. She is doing what she believes is right.'

Miss Abdel-Gadir grew up in an area on the outskirts of King's Lynn known as 'Millionaire's Row' in Ashwicken. Her mother, Dr Huda Fawi, is a consultant paediatrician, and is also based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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The student is believed to be the middle daughter of three children. She was an extremely conscientious pupil when she attended Wisbech Grammar School and achieved straight A and A* grades in her GCSEs.

She was accepted straight into medical school with her results, and left the UK to study at the University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

The family still have close relatives living in the African country, and it is understood Miss Abdel-Gadir would return home to Norfolk during the university holidays.

The friend added: 'I think IS is terrible, but people need to understand that she is a lovely person and that not everyone going to Syria is brutal and horrible.

'Her father is usually a smiley and good-humoured man who is very connected to the Western culture and customs. But I could see the hurt in his face, particularly in his eyes, when I saw him on the television this week – it was very upsetting to watch.'

Mr Abdel-Gadir operated on Michael Ashmore, of Sawston, in King's Lynn, after he slipped two discs in his back.

'He's a great bloke and a great surgeon,' he said.

'He changed my life and has changed the lives of many other people in this area. The extra care he offers his patients is second to none. I'm sure he won't return from Turkey until she is in his arms.'

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham is trying to help and the Foreign Office is providing support.

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