Nine Britons – four of them children – were seized by Turkish security forces last night as they tried to slip across the border to an Islamic State stronghold in Syria.
The jihadists were caught as they made the final leg of their journey.
The three men, two women and four children were detained by soldiers at a checkpoint in Ogulpinar.
It is believed the youngest of the four children is two and the eldest is 11.
Arrested: Nine British nationals, three men, two women and four children, have been arrested trying to enter Syria illegally, and are now in the custody of Turkish officials (file picture)
Fleeing to Syria: Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamina Begum at Gatwick in February
Turkey is a key staging ground for foreign fighters attempting to reach IS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq. Over the past three months more than a dozen Britons, including three teenage schoolgirls, have made the journey.
The arrests came as Scotland Yard revealed counter terrorism officers detained a 19-year-old at Luton Airport on Tuesday as he returned from Istanbul. Yahya Rashid is suspected of acting as an Islamic State smuggler, paying for four men and a woman to join the terrorist group in Syria.
He is accused of accompanying the group as they travelled to Morocco and then on to Turkey in November.
hey are believed to have slipped across the border into Syria before Rashid flew home. He was remanded in custody by Westminster magistrates yesterday to appear at the Old Bailey accused of preparing to commit an act of terror and assisting others in preparing to commit acts of terror.
More than 22,000 foreign fighters are now believed to have joined Islamic State from around 100 countries.
Yesterday a senior prosecutor revealed that British headteachers fear children may use the Easter break to try to flee to Syria to join IS.
Nazir Afzal said two heads had told him of more than a dozen teenage boys and girls thought to have been ‘groomed and seduced’ by jihadists.
Joining the jihad: Around 600 Britons, many of them teenagers or young adults, are believed to have joined ISIS since 2013 (file picture)
Police had not been told because the unnamed secondary schools – one in East London and one in West London – did not want them placed under investigation, said Mr Afzal, former chief prosecutor for the North West.
Several schoolchildren have already gone to Syria. They include four from Bethnal Green Academy in East London – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Sharmeena Begum – who fled to become jihadi brides after being radicalised online. Last week it was revealed that four girls from the academy had their passports confiscated by judges to prevent them joining IS.
Mr Afzal, who spearheaded the prosecutions of Muslim gangs who groomed underage girls in Rochdale, said: ‘[IS] terrorists are deluded, narcissistic, glory-hunting inadequates who call themselves soldiers, but they’re selling themselves with professionally made videos that make them seem glamorous and sexy.
‘Isn’t that what groomers do? They make these kids feel wanted and loved, they tell them they understand them and they distance them from their friends and family.’
n Islamic State militants have infiltrated a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus and clashed with a Palestinian group in the jihadis’ deepest foray yet into the Syrian capital, according to a human rights group.
IS fighters took over large areas of the Yarmouk camp. If they gain full control, they could threaten the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s power base.