FBI, BCSO investigating disappearance of 16-year-old Taft HS student

Maarib Al Hishmawi last seen Jan. 30

SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are investigating the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl.

According to a release from the Sheriff's Office Maarib Al Hishmawi, 16, was last seen leaving Taft High School on Jan. 30.

Authorities have initiated a joint investigation into the Iraqi girl's disappearance. 

"She has not been seen by her family, she has not been heard from by her friends, so we have come to the conclusion that this is not a typical missing 16-year-old," BCSO Assistant Chief Deputy Ronald Bennett said during a press conference Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Office said Al Hishmawi was physically abused by someone she knew and they are not only interested in finding her, but also ensuring she is in a safe environment.

"I cannot speculate on who (abused her), or when, or how severe. I do understand that this has been a recurring issue for her according to some interviews," Bennett said. "At this point, we are asking for your help -- the public's help -- in identifying and locating where she's at."

Al Hishmawi is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs approximately 150 pounds. She was last seen wearing jeans, a white jacket with black piping, light colored pump-style heels and a white, floral hijab.

Bennett said while it's possible she may have been taken back to the Middle East, they aren't sure of her whereabouts or whether she's been harmed since her disappearance.

The FBI was called in to assist in the investigation due to Al Hishmawi's ethnicity, Bennet said. The FBI is helping the Sheriff's Office navigate language barriers and understand cultural aspects of the Iraqi girl's life. Bennett could not expand on cultural differences that might have contributed to her disappearance.

Bennett said the Sheriff's Office investigates between 15 and 20 missing juvenile cases every week, but where Al Hishmawi's case differs is that the juvenile is typically found within the first 24 to 48 hours.

Investigators are not sure whether she was taken or left on her own. Now, they are asking the public for help.

Those with information about her disappearance are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 210-224-STOP (7867). Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.