April 1, 2015 / 5:38 PM / 4 years ago

Turkey detains nine Britons crossing into Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish security forces arrested nine British nationals trying to cross illegally into Syria, the Turkish military said in a statement on Wednesday.

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.

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 Islamic State beheading videos. About half are thought to have returned.

Last month, three male British teenagers suspected of planning to join Islamic State 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 Islamic State in Syria.

Thousands of foreigners from various countries have joined the ranks of radical groups in Syria and Iraq, many of them crossing through Turkey.

Turkey has faced criticism for not better controlling its southeastern borders, and in turn has accused European countries of failing to prevent would-be jihadists from traveling in the first place.

Writing by Ece Toksabay; Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Larry King

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