Turkey detains nine Britons crossing into Syria

Turkey detains nine Britons crossing into Syria

ISTANBUL - Reuters
Turkey detains nine Britons crossing into Syria

Nine British nationals were arrested while trying to cross illegally into Syria and will be deported. CİHAN Photo.

Turkish security forces arrested nine British nationals trying to cross illegally into Syria, the Turkish military said in a statement on April 1. 

The Britons were arrested near Hatay province on the Turkish side of the Syrian border. It was not clear why the nine people were trying to cross the frontier. 

In London, the Foreign Office said it was aware of the reports of the arrest. 

"We are in contact with the Turkish authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance," a spokesman said. 

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old British woman, one of a group of medical students that includes seven Britons, an American and a Canadian thought to have travelled to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has told her family she wants to go home, a Turkish lawmaker has said. 

"A female student, 19-year-old Lena, sent a message to her family saying she wanted to go back. We will try tomorrow to bring her and those who are with her back, if we can persuade them," the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Mehmet Ali Ediboğlu said in a television interview late on April 1. 

Thousands of foreigners from different countries have joined the ranks of radical groups such as ISIL, many of them crossing through Turkey. 

The medical students, aged between 19 and 25 and who  include two from Sudan, flew from the Sudanese capital Khartoum to Istanbul on March 12. 

A Turkish government official said the British, Turkish and Sudanese security services were jointly investigating but gave no further details. 

Security services estimate some 600 Britons have gone to Syria or Iraq to join militant groups, including the man known as "Jihadi John," who has appeared in several ISIL beheading videos. About half are thought to have returned. 

Last month, three male British teenagers suspected of planning to join ISIL militants in Syria were arrested by London police after being deported from Turkey. 

Their arrest came after three London schoolgirls entered Turkey earlier this year and are thought to have joined ISIL in Syria. 

Turkey has stepped up border security, regularly releasing details of would-be fighters it has detained, after criticism it had not done enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters through the region.