9 Britons arrested in Turkey: Father says he thought his Syria-bound son was 'on work experience'

Shakil Ahmed, a councillor on Rochdale Borough Council said that the young man was 'a good Muslim' and loyal to the UK

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The Independent Online

The son of a Labour councillor was among a group of nine British people detained in Turkey after allegedly trying to go to war-torn Syria, his father has said.

Shakil Ahmed, a councillor on Rochdale Borough Council, said he had believed his son was getting work experience in Birmingham, adding that the young man was “a good Muslim” and loyal to the UK.

The five adults, who are believed to be related and are from Rochdale, will face questions by British police about why they took four children, aged from one to 11, into “such a volatile and dangerous place”, police said.

They were detained by the Turkish authorities on Wednesday and are expected to be returned to the UK.

Mr Ahmed said: “It’s a total mystery to me why he’s there, as I was under the impression he was on a work placement in Birmingham. My son is a good Muslim and his loyalties belong to Britain, so I don’t understand what he’s doing there.

“If I thought for a second that he was in danger of being radicalised, I would have reported him to the authorities.

 

“He’s studying a degree in politics and sociology at Manchester University and has a good future ahead of him.

“I just want to speak to my son and get him home as soon as possible so I can find out what’s going on.”

Although it is not yet known why this group decided to go to Syria, 600 people from the UK are believed to have travelled there to join militant groups such as Isis since the current conflict began. About half of them have returned.

An investigation has now been launched by Greater Manchester Police and the North West Counter Terrorism Unit.  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 war zone; such a volatile and dangerous environment is no place for them whatsoever.

“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.”

Video footage released earlier apparently showed the Britons arriving at a police station in the Southern Hatay province, where they are understood to have been kept on Wednesday night.

The Manchester force said it had uncovered “no evidence whatsoever” of any imminent threat IN the UK.

Mohammed Shafiq, head of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim think tank, said: “The idea you can take young children into a war zone is despicable and we condemn those adults who have done this.”

Iman Irfan Chishti, of the Rochdale Council of Mosques, said: “We are shocked to hear this has happened.”