U.K. teens released on bail

Three teenage boys from London who were stopped by the Turkish police as they were travelling to Syria from Istanbul in Turkey were flown back to London and have now been released on bail, the London Metropolitan Police have stated.

The attempts by the boys - two 17-year-olds from Brent in northwest London and a 19-year-old - to join the ranks of ISIS in Syria, comes a month after three teenage girls from the Bethnal Green Academy in London managed to successfully evade interception and cross over into Syria.

The daring getaway by the girls has heightened the watchfulness of families whose younger members are susceptible to ISIS recruiters. In evidence given before the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament last week, the families of the three teenage girls said they had no inkling of the elaborate plans hatched by the three friends to journey to Syria.

The Times reports that it was the quick action by the alert families of two of the boys in informing the police when the pair did not come home after the Friday prayers that led to their arrest. To throw the police off-track, the boys flew out early morning on Friday to Barcelona in Spain, and then on to Istanbul where they were intercepted by Turkish police on a tip-off by Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britain’s most senior police officer, who was also called to testify last week at the Home Affairs Committee hearing, had assured the families that their daughters would not be arrested on charges of terrorism if they returned home. It is perhaps in keeping with this that the police have released the three boys on bail.

It is estimated now that 600 British citizens have left to Syria to fight with ISIS armies, with many of them having returned to the U.K. still sympathetic to the cause. Of those who have left are several dozen women.

The U.K. government’s programmes called Prevent and Channel, which have been created to counter the growth of terrorist sympathies amongst vulnerable groups have not been as effective as they should have, observers note.

“Of course people don’t want to lose their children,” Mussarat Zia, GENERAL Secretary of the Muslim Women’s Council told The Hindu. Ms. Zia, who had worked in the Prevent and Channel programmes a few years ago, argued for greater sensitivity in dealing with vulnerable families. Rather than wait for parents to come forward to report behavioural changes in their children, the organisation should reach out to those families.

“What assurances are you going to give us that the next thing that won’t happen is that you have this big blue police van outside your house, and your family being put on some kind of watch list? So these are the conversations that need to take place, and the reassurances that need to be given,” she said.

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 5:00:43 PM |

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