Police urge Muslim women to stop men going to Syria
Counter-terrorism chiefs ask Muslim women for help in stemming flow of UK fighters
POLICE have issued an unprecedented plea to British Muslim women, asking them to urge male relatives to stay away from Syria's civil war.
Hundreds of British citizens are thought to have travelled to Syria to help rebel groups fighting against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. But counter-terrorism chiefs say they are concerned that fighters could return to Britain radicalised and ready to carry out attacks on British soil, Reuters reports.
In a statement on the Metropolitan Police website, Helen Ball, national coordinator for counter terrorism policing, said: "The number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds. We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening."
Last week AFP reported that a British teenager had been killed in fighting in Syria. Police have said that any fighters who do manage to make it back from the conflict risk arrest.
Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5's domestic spy agency, said in October last year that an increasing amount of his agency's work now relates to Syria, "mostly concerning individuals from the UK who have travelled to fight there or who aspire to do so".
The Charity Commission has lent its weight to the police campaign, and has published advice to individuals who wish to donate on how to prevent their money from ending up in the hands of extremists.
The commission's chairman, William Shawcross, warned that charities must be particularly vigilant about how money donated to Syria is used, The Guardian reported at the weekend.
Authorities in France have announced similar measures to try and stop citizens there from joining the war in Syria, Al Jazeera reports. Initiatives include a dedicated hotline for parents concerned about their children's behaviour, and deterrents for French citizens found to have been involved in the war. French nationals who return from Syria could now face criminal charges or even be stripped of their French citizenship. A similar measure was proposed in Britain, but was rejected by the House of Lords earlier this month.