Seven UK medical students studying in Sudan may be heading for Syria

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 30 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3596
  1. Duncan Gardham
  1. 1London

On Monday 29 June it emerged that seven British medical students have flown to Turkey from Sudan seeking to join the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

They seem to be following in the footsteps of a group of five British people from the same university who crossed the border to Syria in March.

The first group also included a Canadian, a US citizen, and two people from Sudan, while the second included two Canadians and a US student along with two Sudanese students, one of whom was said to be travelling on a diplomatic passport.

Their travel raises further questions about the influences that young students may come under while studying abroad.

Many of the students came from UK families of Sudanese background, and they had been studying at the University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Khartoum, a private university, established in 2007.

The latest group were supposed to be taking an exam on Friday but instead left for the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight. The mother of one of the students, who was in Sudan on a visit, discovered on Friday afternoon that her son’s passport was missing and called UK authorities.

Ahmed Babaker, dean of students at the University of Medical Sciences and Technology, said, “The fact that the students travelled to Turkey indicates that they are [going] in the direction of joining Islamist extremist groups. And the [parts of Turkey] that are closest to the Turkish border are areas under the control of Islamic State.”

The UK Foreign Office said that it was working closely with the Turkish police to establish the students’ whereabouts.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3596


  • Features: Time for tighter checks on medical schools? (BMJ 2015;350:h3511, doi:10.1136/bmj.h3511); Islamic State creates jihadi health service (BMJ 2015;350:h3487, doi:10.1136/bmj.h3487)

View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial