Twelve students including British, Canadian, Sudanese and American citizens are feared to have left Khartoum for Turkey to try to join the Islamic State (ISIS) group, their university said on Sunday, according to AFP.
Another group of British students of Sudanese origin from the same private University of Medical Sciences and Technology travelled to Turkey in March and it is believed they crossed into Syria, the report said.
"We confirmed reports from multiple parties that 12 medical students at the university left for Turkey on Friday," the dean for students Dr. Ahmed Babikir told AFP.
Khartoum airport authorities confirmed the group had flown to Turkey and the students' families said they had not seen them since Friday and were unable to find their passports, Babikir added.
It was likely they were trying to reach Syria to join ISIS because they were still sitting their final exams and had not warned relatives they were leaving, he said.
"Logic says that they travelled to join the Daesh organisation," Babikir said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Seven of the missing students are British, two Canadian, one American and two are Sudanese nationals, he said, although all are understood to be of Sudanese origin.
Three of the 12 are women, Babikir added, declining to provide any names.
The British embassy in Khartoum confirmed that "seven British nationals have travelled to Turkey from Sudan", according to the AFP report.
"We are providing consular assistance and are working closely with Turkish authorities to establish their whereabouts," said embassy press officer Ishtiaq Ghafoor, without giving further details about the students.
The American and Canadian missions in Khartoum did not immediately comment on the report.
The University of Medical Sciences and Technology is a private university in central Khartoum. The students who went missing on Friday were all in their final year at medical school, a university source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"These students were recruited to the Islamic State organization by some individuals inside the university through conversations they had with them," the source added.
Many students at the university are foreign nationals of Sudanese origin, noted AFP.
Nine British students from the University of Medical Sciences and Technology were reported to have flown from Khartoum to Turkey to join ISIS in March.
Their families travelled to the Turkey-Syria border to try to trace them, but there has been no confirmation of the whereabouts of the nine since then.
The case of the missing students illustrates the phenomenon of radicalized individuals who go to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist groups and, in some cases, bring terrorism back to their home countries.
EU nationals who have returned to Europe after joining the jihadist cause in the Middle East have been implicated in several recent attacks, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January and an attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014.
Many of the foreign fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey, which has been repeatedly criticized by its Western allies for not doing enough to halt the flow of jihadists across Turkish territory.
Turkey fiercely rejects the accusations, saying it is making every effort to secure a long border and in turn has accused the West of not playing its part to shoulder the burden of hosting refugees from Syria.
Two months ago, Turkey’s Foreign Minister appealed for more help in cracking down on foreign fighters flooding to join terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
AFP contributed to this report.