Syria crisis: 9 Britons arrested in Turkey 'trying to cross border'

There has been a recent spate of Britons trying to get into Syria

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The Independent Online

Nine British people, including four children, have been arrested in Turkey as they tried to cross the border into Syria illegally, Turkish army officials have reported.

The group, which consisted of three men, two women and the children, who were aged from either one or two to 11, were detained at about 3pm local time today (1pm UK time) in Hatay province.

A spokesman for the Turkish Army told The Independent: “Nine British people were arrested in Hatay. They wanted to enter Syria.” He was unable to provide any more information about the arrests, but said more details might be released today.

A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press news agency that the group had been trying to sneak across the border. It was not known why the group were trying to go to Syria, but a number of British people intending to join Isis have chosen to travel through Turkey. The territory on the Syrian side of the border with Hatay is split between regime forces and Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-sham and other rebel groups.

 

People and oil smuggling has been rife in the area close to the main crossing near the border town of Reyhanli, although locals say the military has clamped down heavily in recent months.

The two closest Syrian cities are Aleppo and Idlib – the latter was taken from the regime at the weekend after an attack by Islamist rebel groups and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which is known to include British jihadis.

In February, three schoolgirls from London, Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, flew to Istanbul and are then believed to have travelled to Raqqa in north-central Syria, the de facto capital of Isis territory. It is understood they were following another 15-year-old girl, Sharmeena Begum, who travelled there in December.

Last month, three teenagers, two aged 17 and one aged 19, were arrested in Turkey after the authorities there received a tip-off from British police. They are currently on police bail.

A 21-year-old British woman was also arrested last month while standing at a bus stop in Ankara. Images on the woman’s phone and correspondence reportedly indicated she was planning to travel to Isis-held territory.

The Metropolitan Police believe around 600 Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq since the conflict began, while around half are believed to have returned to the UK.

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