Family of nine held ‘on their way to Syria’

NINE British nationals have been detained in Turkey after apparently trying to cross into war-torn Syria, police have said.
A man believed to be one of the party in Turkey. Picture: GettyA man believed to be one of the party in Turkey. Picture: Getty
A man believed to be one of the party in Turkey. Picture: Getty

The group of five adults and four children from Rochdale, who are believed to be related, are being returned to the UK. They were stopped in Hatay province.

Greater Manchester Police said officers were trying to establish their reason for travelling to the Syrian border.

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Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett said: “What is obviously concerning is why a family were seemingly attempting to take very young and vulnerable children into a warzone. Such a volatile and dangerous environment is no place for them 

Footage apparently showed the Britons arriving at a police station in the southern Hatay province, where they are understood to have been kept overnight.

The group includes two women aged 47 and 22, three men aged 24, 22 and 21, and four children aged one, three, eight and 11, police said.

The force said it had uncovered “no evidence whatsoever” of any imminent threat to the Rochdale community or elsewhere in the UK.

Mr Wiggett said: “One of our primary concerns is the safety and welfare of the young children and we are working with partners to ensure a full safeguarding strategy is in place upon their return to the UK.

“We are all working together to help identify vulnerable members of our society and intervene and engage them before it is too late.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to remind everyone of their responsibility to help us in our fight against extremism and prevent anyone thinking of travelling to Syria or other warzones from going.

“This is especially difficult for parents or people with close relationships with those people in question, but it is these people who are most likely to spot the early signs of radicalisation.

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“If anyone has any information about individuals or groups they think are a concern or vulnerable to radicalisation, they can call us in complete and utter confidence.”

The force said its officers were working closely with Rochdale Borough Council and faith leaders as part of the “Prevent” initiative, which aims to divert young Muslims away from terrorism and violent extremism.

The latest Britons to be detained follow three young men who were stopped at the Turkey-Syria border last month. They were tracked down after police were given a tip-off about their alleged plan to enter the country. A woman was also arrested at the border on a separate occasion last month.

In February, police launched an international manhunt for three schoolgirls who went missing from their east London homes.

Bethnal Green Academy pupils Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana are believed to be inside Syria after flying to Turkey on a well-trodden path to the country.

It is understood they were following another 15-year-old who travelled there in December.

A High Court judge has since confiscated the passports of four other pupils at the school after concerns were raised by Tower Hamlets Council.

The Metropolitan Police believe around 600 Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq since the conflict began.