The impact of ISIS extremism in Syria is now being felt across the UK, maps charting the soaring number of terror arrests and convictions reveal.
The almost weekly raids now being carried out by anti-terror police are taking place throughout Britain; from the eastern port of Dover to the western town of Hayle in Cornwall, and from Portsmouth on the south coast to Manchester and Bolton in the North.
Whether it is stopping would-be jihadis from travelling to the Middle East, foiling planned plots when they return or disrupting their funding networks, the conflict in Syria has spawned a huge range of crimes for British authorities to deal with.
A map charting the location of arrests made in response to the threat from Syria-linked extremism shows it is not an issue confined to big cities.
As well as raids in London, Birmingham and Manchester, suspects have been detained in towns around the Home Counties, Wales and the Midlands.
Police estimated that, last year, up to five Britons a week travelled to Syria, making monitoring their movements on their return all the more difficult.
Meanwhile, the number of Syria-related terror arrests increased six-fold from just 25 in 2013 to 165 in 2014.
The Metropolitan Police said they are taking a ‘cradle to the grave approach’ to disrupting terrorism and last month made arrests in relation to an alleged scam in which say cold callers swindled pensioners out of money to fund ISIS.
Senior national co-ordinator for counter terrorism policing Helen Ball said earlier this year: ‘We have been running exceptionally high numbers of investigations, the likes of which we have not seen for many years.
‘Several attack plots have been disrupted, of various sophistication, from individuals planning to carry out lone attacks to more complex conspiracies, the majority seemingly directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas.’
The range of suspected offences which arrests were made for include funding terrorism, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism and attending a terrorist training camp.
Last May, father of two Mashudur Choudhury, from Portsmouth, became the first person in the UK to be convicted of terrorist offences in connection with the Syria conflict. The 31-year-old went to the Middle Eastern country with the intention of joining a terrorist training camp last October.
Since then, a string of further trials have taken place, with convictions of women funding boyfriends and husbands fighting abroad, groups returning from jihadi camps and others inspired by the violence to plot atrocities in the UK.
Gathering evidence against foreign combatants poses extra challenges for the CPS, with lawyers often struggling to get reliable evidence from warzones or hostile authorities abroad.
But Deborah Walsh, Deputy Head of Counter-Terrorism at the CPS, told MailOnline the service is gathering expertise in how to prosecute returning militants.
She said: ‘Whilst prosecuting acts undertaken in countries such as Syria always brings new and unique challenges, the existing success of our specialist prosecutors in securing convictions for offences committed abroad – for example in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and more recently in Syria itself – demonstrates that we are ready and able to take these challenges on.
‘We work with police from an early stage in the investigation to ensure that wherever possible, international borders and areas of conflict are not a barrier to justice.’
The former head of MI6 warned last month that there are ‘several thousand’ individuals of concern in Britain and demanded tougher anti-terror powers to prevent a ‘ghastly 7/7-style attack’.
Sir John Sawers said ‘The threat that we face from terrorists here has gone up over the last three years and there has to be some response to that.
‘What we don’t want to do is wait for some ghastly 7/7-style terrorist attack here in the UK before political opinion changes.
‘The whole point is to move incrementally to ensure that the powers and resources available to the security services, intelligence services, are ahead of that threat.’
Sir John, who stepped down from MI6 last November, added: ‘I think in general when you look at the challenge that the security services are facing with the number of extremists here in the UK, elsewhere in Europe, they do a really professional job and, of course, they know many of these individuals, most of them who end up taking part in terrorist organisations.’
MENIAL WORK, A LACK OF TOILET PAPER AND NOWHERE TO CHARGE YOUR IPHONE: HOW THE TRIALS OF BRITAIN’S RETURNING JIHADIS HAVE REVEALED LIFE WITH ISIS IS FAR FROM PARADISE
A series of trials of extremists who travelled to the Middle East reveals many of them were woefully unprepared for life in a warzone and miss the comforts of the UK.
Imran Khawaja, who was jailed for 12 years after faking his own death so he could return, was nicknamed ‘Barbie’ by fellow fighters and complained to his family about the lack of cocoa butter, toothpaste, moisturiser, and toilet paper.
His relatives attempted to lure him back to the UK with images of them eating at Nandos chicken restaurant. He later decided to flee his terrorist training camp because of the lack of ‘war booty’, meaning women.
ISIS propaganda videos mean many British fighters expect a glorified version of the reality, which is strict rules and a repetitive schedule
Mohommod Nawaz, 30, with his younger brother Hamza Nawaz, 24, were both jailed for going to Syria.
Photos from the brother’s phones showed the strict daily schedule at the camp included two sessions of ‘military training’, two sessions of ‘Islamic lessons’ and ‘lights out’ at 10pm.
The day began at 4.30am with prayers, followed by physical training from 6am to 8am. There would be ‘military training’ twice a day and further Islamic lessons before bed.
Messages Mohommod sent to his girlfriend reveal he was far from happy in Syria. He moaned about not being able to use his mobile phone while training and feared being caught charging it by other wannabe jihadis.
He wrote: ‘Aint allowed to have a phone when training…cos I don’t have it on me and I can’t charge it without someone grassing me up.’
He also admitted crying to himself at night over worries he might not see his girlfriend in London again, writing: ‘I fear we may never see each other again. I was crying bares [lots] last night.’
Mashudur Choudhury, the first man convicted of Syria-related terrorism, said he was made to do the cooking and washing and look after children in a makeshift nursery.
The complaints chime with those made by a number French Muslim converts in weepy messages home that were leaked to newspaper Le Figaro.
One said: ‘I’m fed up to the back teeth. My iPod no longer works out here. I have got to come home.’ Another wrote: ‘I’ve done hardly anything but hand out clothes and food,’ he said, adding: ‘Winter is beginning. It’s starting to get tough.’