Son of British Politician Among Detained in Turkey

The son of a British local councillor among nine people detained by Turkish authorities for trying to cross the Syrian border.

Ben Ariel,

Muslims in London (file)
Muslims in London (file)

The son of a British local councillor was among nine people detained by Turkish authorities for allegedly trying to cross the Syrian border, his father confirmed on Thursday, according to AFP.

The group were all members of the same family and included four children, among them a one-year-old, British police said.

Shakil Ahmed, a councillor for the opposition Labour party on Rochdale Borough Council, near Manchester in northwest England, said he was "shocked, worried and extremely upset" to hear his son had been arrested on the border.

"It's a total mystery to me why he's there, as I was under the impression he was on a work placement in Birmingham," Ahmed said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"My son is a good Muslim and his loyalties belong to Britain, so I don't understand what he's doing there. If I thought for a second that he was in danger of being radicalized, I would have reported him to the authorities," he added.

A student pursuing a degree in politics and sociology at Manchester University, Ahmed's son was among five adults aged 21, 24, 47 and two aged 22, who were arrested in the Hatay region of southern Turkey.

With them were four children, aged one, three, eight and 11. They all currently live in Rochdale and are expected to be returned to Britain from Turkey "in due course", a police spokesman said.

"What is obviously concerning is why a family were seemingly attempting to take very young and vulnerable children into a warzone," Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett of Greater Manchester Police said, according to AFP.

"Such a volatile and dangerous environment is no place for them whatsoever."

An investigation is underway into why the group was travelling to Syria, but the police said there was no evidence of any imminent threat to Britain.

"I just want to speak to my son and get him home as soon as possible so I can find out what's going on," Ahmed said.

The arrests were announced by the Turkish army on Wednesday, but no further details were given.

Turkey has in the last few months been repeatedly criticized by its Western allies for not doing enough to halt the flow across Turkish territory of European nationals seeking to join ISIS jihadists in Syria.

However, it has made a number of arrests in recent months and insists it is doing all it can to control the border.

Several weeks ago, a British woman was detained by Turkish police on suspicion of seeking to join Islamic State terrorists in Syria, and was later deported back to Britain.

Previously, three British teenager boys suspected of trying to travel to Syria were detained by Turkey and later deported to Britain.

Ankara was sharply criticized over its failure to stop three British teenage girls who crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS in February.

The three teens, Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are now feared to have reached the conflict zone and are believed to be staying at a house in the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS.

In response to the accusations by its Western allies, Turkey accused Britain of failing to provide information about the girls sooner.