60 British women may have joined IS, says senior official

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Mar 01, 2015 23:38 IST

As new details of ‘Jihadi John’s’ life in London emerge, Britain’s top counter-terrorism official disclosed on Sunday that as many 60 British women and girls, including 18 teenagers, had travelled to Syria to join the ranks of Islamic State (IS) militants.

Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner Helen Ball told the BBC that nearly five of them were around 15–16 years old. Three schoolgirls from east London who travelled via Gatwick to recently are the latest to hit the headlines.

CCTV images showed Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, travelling from London to Syria via Turkey.

Ball said the police were getting increasingly concerned about the growing trend of young women planning to make the journey from Britain to Syria. She said, “This is a growing problem and it’s one of real concern. The more everybody involved in travel can be alert and be vigilant and look out for people the better.”

“There’s a new police power to remove someone’s passport if we are concerned they might be travelling for terrorist activity — we have used that already. But mostly this is about vigilance of everyone who is working in the industry… some of those women and girls are very carefully prepared for their travel so that they don’t stand out. They take unusual routes and it is very hard to spot them,” she said.

After it was revealed that ‘Jihadi John’ — unmasked as Mohammad Emwazi — graduated from the University of Westminster, leading members of the ruling coalition government reiterated the need for tighter restrictions on ‘hate preachers’ on campuses.

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