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600 Britons caught trying to join Islamic fighters in Syria

Published 16/01/2016

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond meets children taking lessons during a visit to the Saricam refugee camp near Adana in Turkey, which provides aid to approximately 10,800 Syrians who have fled the civil war
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond meets children taking lessons during a visit to the Saricam refugee camp near Adana in Turkey, which provides aid to approximately 10,800 Syrians who have fled the civil war

Six hundred British nationals have been caught trying to enter Syria to join Islamic State (IS) and other jihadist groups since 2012, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Speaking during a visit to southern Turkey, Mr Hammond said an estimated 800 UK citizens had entered Syria in the past four years, with around half thought to still be in the country.

But he said the British and Turkish intelligence services had managed to stop hundreds more joining them, stopping some leaving the UK and others as they arrived in Istanbul - a key staging point on the route to Syria.

"Approximately 800 Brits have been to Syria, of whom half are still there. But on top of that 800, we have stopped another 600," he told The Guardian.

He said the growing success of the authorities in preventing foreign fighters reaching IS in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa was adding to the pressure the group was facing from western air strikes.

"There is evidence (IS) is finding it difficult to recruit to the brigades in Raqqa because of the high attrition rate of foreign fighters," he said.

"Not just those targeted in UK drone strikes, but US strikes against prominent targets including foreign fighters."

"Generally they are very stretched now - their manpower on the ground in relation to the territory they're holding is very thin."

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