Isis in the Middle East: 'Dozens' of UK families beg police for help stopping relatives traveling to Syria

Met Police are 'stretched' by 'exceptionally high' number of inquiries related to Islamist extremism

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The police have been contacted by “dozens” of British families asking for help stopping relatives travelling to Syria, Scotland Yard has said.

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said police forces were being “stretched” by an “exceptionally high” number of inquiries related to Islamist extremism.

“Dozens of families have contacted us concerned about loved ones or information when they believe someone is travelling abroad,” he revealed in an interview broadcast on BBC News.

He urged families who suspected their relatives might be travelling to the Middle East to join groups like Isis to contact the police.

“We had a case in the last few days where a young person was travelling out to Syria,” he recounted.

“The family realised very quickly, reported it to us so quickly we were able to get them intercepted when they got into Turkey and the Turks turned them back to the UK.

“It is only through courageous action like that that we can help and we have been supporting such families in every way we can.”

Mr Rowley said 218 terror-related arrests had been made so far in 2014, and that the police were responsible for taking down more than 1,000 pieces of extremist material from the internet every week.

He described the police activity as a “step-change” in pace and attributed the uptick to conflicts in Syria and Iraq attracting UK nationals.

Social media was also being used to attract British people towards Islamist ideologies, he added.

“This is a terrorist threat that may have its seat somewhere that seems a long way away but it is influencing people on the streets of London and is trying to import terrorism onto the streets of London and the UK,” he explained.

“Extremist groups are using social media in highly sophisticated ways in order to recruit or persuade individuals towards their violent and warped ideologies.”

Mr Rowley said the “recruiting sergeants, funders and advocates” of extremist groups like Isis were being especially targeted.

The exact number of British people travelling to fight in Syria is unknown.