Belfast Telegraph

Mother of kidnapped Irish girl enters Syria in bid to find her

By Grainne Cunningham

The mother of an Irish girl who has been kidnapped by her Syrian father has crossed the border into the troubled country in a desperate bid to find her daughter.

Louise Monaghan, mother of six-year-old May Assad Monaghan, was terrified about her decision to travel to Syria but felt she had no choice if she wanted to see her little girl, her sister Mandy said last night.

A tearful Mandy, speaking from a hotel room in Turkey, said: "She has gone. She was so scared but she kept saying what else could she do."

Mandy said her sister expected to meet her ex-husband Mustafa Assad at the border and he was confident he would be able to get her into Syria, despite Louise having no visa, by bribing officials.

May, who was born in Ireland but has been living in Limassol, Cyprus, with her mother for the last few years, was abducted by her father when he failed to bring her back home from a scheduled visit on Wednesday.

Ms Monaghan and Mr Assad divorced last November and Ms Monaghan has custody of her daughter while Mr Assad has visitation rights.

Louise had hoped to get May an emergency passport but was told that, legally, May's father would have to sign the application form, despite the fact that he has kidnapped her. "It's absolutely crazy," Mandy said.

Yesterday evening, after an emotional farewell, Louise got into a taxi and headed for the border. "All we can do now is hope and pray. She will have to live there until we can get them both home," Mandy said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they do not comment on individual cases. However, officials are providing consular assistance.

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