A 15-year-old, 17-year-old and 19-year-old from north-west London arrested at Istanbul airport and returned to UK, while an 18-year-old is arrested in Birmingham on suspicion of travelling to Syria.
The London teenagers, whose names have not been released, reportedly all come from a Pakistani community in Brent. They were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts after being returned to the UK from Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul.
The families of the two younger boys are said to have alerted police when the pair went missing after Friday prayers. The three teenagers travelled to Turkey from Luton airport via Barcelona, seemingly in an attempt to avoid being discovered.
Meanwhile, police in Birmingham said that an 18-year-old man from the Hodge Hill area of the city was arrested at his house on 7am on Monday morning on suspicion of preparing to travel to Syria to join Islamic State. The West Midlands counter-terrorism unit said it had made the arrest based on intelligence received and there had been no threat to public safety.
West Midlands police confirmed there was no link between the man’s arrest this morning and the arrest of the three teenagers on Saturday.
Speaking about the London teenagers, a Met police spokesman said: “Officers alerted the Turkish authorities who were able to intercept all three males, preventing travel to Syria.
“On Saturday 14 March, the three males returned to the UK and at approximately 11.10pm were arrested on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts contrary to section five of the terrorism act 2006. They have been bailed to return to a central London police station pending further enquiries.”
The arrest of the three teenagers in Istanbul is in sharp contrast to the case of three teenage girls from east London, Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16 and Amira Abase, 15, who slipped through unnoticed last month. Turkish authorities dispute the claim by British police that information was immediately passed on when it was realised the girls were missing.
At the time, Turkey’s deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc attacked Britain for a lack of communication. “It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls… come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later,” he said. “They haven’t taken the necessary measures.”
On Sunday, the girls’ families issued a statement saying they were praying for their safe return, and that their absence was felt acutely on mothers’ day. The statement accused police, the local council and the girls’ school of failing to pass on vital information.
“Had we been made aware of circumstances sooner, we ourselves could have taken measures to stop the girls from leaving the UK,” the statement read.
“Looking to the future, we hope to work with the relevant authorities to rectify the situation, and we will continue to do everything we possibly can to ensure our girls are brought back to us safely.”
About 600 Britons are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq since the conflict began, according to Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the national policing lead for counter-terrorism. Speaking last month, he added that around half are believed to have returned to the UK.
Police have launched a new campaign aimed at preventing attempts by Islamic State to recruit young women from Britain. In the past year, 22 women and girls are believed to have gone to Syria.
The new campaign focuses on the “strong bond” between mothers and daughters, encouraging them “to have open discussions with their daughters about issues such as travelling to Syria and what they are viewing online”. It includes a website and a radio advert.
The Metropolitan Police said: “The campaign recognises that it is mothers who often spot changes in behaviour or signs someone may be considering travelling to a conflict that millions are desperate to escape.
“By encouraging mothers to have an open dialogue with their daughters, it is hoped that potential interest in travelling to Syria will be picked up at an early stage and that the mother will be able to take action, either by challenging the misconceptions or seeking help from other agencies, including the police.”