Anxious police chiefs say they are battling to stem the tide of young Muslims leaving the West Midlands to fight in Syria amid fears of a bloody backlash if they fail.
The move comes as the number of UK citizens arrested on suspicion of taking part in the fighting or providing funds and equipment for the terrorists grows alarmingly.
Forty people were detained nationwide in the first three months of this year compared to 25 throughout the whole of 2013.
Five people from Birmingham have been arrested on Syrian-related offences since January and are currently awaiting trial while at least 20 UK nationals are known to have been killed after going to join the fighting.
Now police have appealed to women within the region’s Muslim communities to help stop the radicalisation of their youth. Critics have dubbed this as an invitation to spy on friends and relatives.
Det Chief Supt Sue Southern, the new head of counter terrorism for the West Midlands, said: “This is a real concern. If we can stop the flow of young people going to Syria the risk to UK national security will be correspondingly reduced. The more people who go, the more will be returning to this country combat trained and we will start to criminalise a whole generation. We have got solid evidence of people returning from conflict zones to plan attacks in the UK and have uncovered such plots in the West Midlands.
“This is not about shopping people it is about education. We want them to ask questions and understand what their children are up to. Then, if they have concerns, we want them to have the confidence to pick up the phone and call the police for help and support. They would do that in the knowledge that this information could lead to the individual concerned facing investigation but this is about prevention.”
Det Chief Supt Southern continued: “The internet is a really worrying place for us. We do not know who people are talking to on it so it is important to let people who genuinely want to help the Syrian cause know how they can do so safely and legally.
“We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.”Subscribe to our Newsletter