Staff at Wisbech Grammar School are said to be in shock today after it was revealed that one of a group of medical students who have travelled to Syria is a former pupil.
Lena Mamoun Abdel-Gadir, 19, is one of nine students from the Khartoum Medical School, who say they have gone to the war-torn area to help treat injured people.
Although she is now known to have revealed her intentions in a Whatsapp message to her sister 10 days ago, her connections to the Fenland area have only now come to light, amid fears the group may have been radicalised by Islamic State militants.
Lena left the grammar school after taking her GCSE exams in the summer of 2011.
Headteacher Chris Staley said she was “a fantastic girl” and a “great all-rounder”, who was a member of the school council and took part in a range of sporting and social activities.
And he said the reasons that she had given to her family for going to Syria were consistent with the student they remembered.
He said: “Our thoughts and prayers go to her family. There’s nobody here who would have been at school with Lena but the staff who taught her are quite shocked.
“All we want is for her to come home and be back with her family.”
Lena’s father is a surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in King’s Lynn and is among a group of her relatives who are currently in neighbouring Turkey.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has asked the Foreign Office to provide consular assitance, which officials say they are doing.
He said: “Lena’s father is a very well respected surgeon at Lynn’s hospital, and I am sure the whole community is in shock about what has happened.
“I know this has come as a dreadful blow to the rest of the family as it is obvious they only wanted the very best for their daughter when they sent her to the Khartoum Medical School.
“The last thing they had expected was for her to be sent to Syria to support IS by working as a medical volunteer.
“It is incredibly important that every centre of learning, including medical schools in the Islamic world, warn students of the dangers of going to Syria.
“Even though they will be told that the work is purely medical, they are nonetheless being persuaded to go into an incredibly dangerous war zone.”
A hospital spokesman said they supported Mr Bellingham’s statement.
He added: “Our thoughts are with Mr Abdel-Gadir and his family at this difficult time. This is a personal matter and the trust will be making no further comment.”