LONDON – In a bid to curb youth influx to Syria, UK police chief has threatened to arrest any Briton coming back home from the war-torn country, citing potential ‘threats’ to Britain's national security.
“We are concerned that people coming back may have been radicalized” Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, told the BBC on Saturday, January 25.
Labeled as “terror suspects”, Britons returning from Syria will be stopped and investigated. The decision followed reports of soaring numbers of British youth travelling to Syria to join jihad.
Those returning from Syria “may well be charged and investigated, but they will be put into our programs,” Fahy said.
“Clearly we've got all sorts of ways of trying to establish that [they have been to Syria]. We have links with intelligence agencies across Europe.
“This is a very difficult situation because Syria is so close. It is very close to tourist destinations, but it is an incredibly dangerous place,” he added.
He said those stopped at the border were put on programs in which police cooperated with local agencies such as schools and youth organizations, “essentially to make sure these people haven't been affected and try and make sure they're not a threat to this country”.
Concerns over the growing numbers of UK youth joining jihad in Syria have mounted after the reports of the arrest of sixteen people during January who were travelling between Syria and the UK, on suspicion of terror offences.
The number was frustrating compared with 24 arrested throughout 2013.
The main problem was safeguarding the welfare of those going to Syria “who may be driven because of the huge concern over there - some for humanitarian purposes - naively to go out there,” Fahy claimed.
But there was also “a real worry about those who may be radicalized, who may have been engaged in terrorist training”, he added.
Commenting on the new phenomenon, British Muslim leaders deemed it “worrying”, urging collaborative efforts to reintroduce the arrested people to British community.
“Once we have these frustrated, often angry and disenfranchised British Muslims going out to Syria to fight, the question is how are we going to reintroduce them to British society?” Mohammad Ansar, a broadcaster and social commentator as well as theologian, told BBC Radio 4'.
“If they were to come back and if the way they were to express themselves is through violence and the gun then we've got absolutely no control over what they're going to do when they come back into our communities,” Ansar added.
According to the Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London, the majority of Britons who join jihad are university graduates of British Pakistani origins.
Though the number of the arrests was relatively low, the center’s spokesman saw it as “a cause for significant concern, particularly as it is young people who are being enticed to travel to Syria to engage in conflict.”
“Our biggest concern is people attending terrorist training camps or fighting in war zones then returning to the UK as terrorists,” he added.
“They are potentially a threat to British interests both abroad and at home.”
The revolt against Assad began as peaceful protests calling for democracy and greater rights, but gradually turned to an armed struggle, pitting the Sunni majority against the president and his minority Alawite sect.
Out of 11,000 foreign fights in Syria, 366 fighters are from UK, according to the international Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at Kings College in London.
At least 125,835 since the start of the Syrian conflict, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced last month.
The UK based network, said that the toll included 44,381 civilians, 6,627 children and 4,454 women.
SOHR stated that at least 27,746 of rebel fighters were killed, among them more than 19,000 civilian who joined the armed opposition to fight Assad.
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