Three British schoolgirls earlier reported to be en route to join Islamist jihadists in Syria have been caught by Turkish authorities and deported.
The teenagers — two 17-year-olds and a 19-year-old — were arrested on Saturday as soon as they touched down in Istanbul and questioned by counterterrorism specialists, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
They were being held at a London police station late Sunday but charges have yet to be filed against them.
The three had managed to evade the attention of authorities in both countries before slipping across the border into Syria, sparking a war of word between Ankara and London.
British police say as many as 600 or 700 of their fellow citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the militant group, or to fight alongside rebel groups trying to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey’s porous border with Syria has become the staging post of choice for foreign militants.
”Our neighborhood is not a rose garden,” said Abdurrahman Bilgiç, Turkey’s ambassador to Britain, who explained to British lawmakers last week the challenge of distinguishing potential jihadist recruits from the thousands of holidaymakers who journey to Istanbul each month.
Ankara has deported more than 1,200 foreigners suspected of wanting to join the fight in Syria and Iraq, and added 5,000 names to its no-entry list last year alone, according to the foreign ministry.
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