Metropolitan Police seeking to 'turn' ex-jihadis

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A lone armed and masked Islamic State militant waving an Isis flag on a deserted street in Raqqa, June 2014Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Militant group Islamic State uses social media as a tool to recruit new members from overseas

Convicted terrorists are being recruited by the Metropolitan Police in an effort to stop more people being lured to join the conflict in Syria.

Head of counter-terrorism Commander Richard Walton said ex-jihadis who had abandoned radicalism were "powerful voices" in countering propaganda.

He told the Evening Standard "we have a few" but are "desperate" to find more.

His officers had to engage with terrorists, even those in prison, to try to turn them around, he added.

The Met's counter-terrorism command arrested 225 people on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in the year to August - a 32% increase on the previous 12 months, latest figures show.

Of those arrested, 29 were women or girls and 17 were under the age of 20, the Met said.

Commander Walton said the Met had rescued several families, some including toddlers, heading to Syria from Turkey in recent months after tip-offs from family or friends worried about their fate.

Extremist material

Militant group Islamic State uses social media as a tool to recruit new members in the UK, and elsewhere.

But the Met wants to develop new "counter-narratives" to challenge the group's ideology, with the help of former extremists.

Commander Walton said: "We can't write off anyone convicted of a terrorist offence.

"Some terrorist offence sentences for possession of extremist material are not lengthy. We know they are going to come out.

"It's a concerning offence but they've not gone on to commit more serious terrorist offences, so there is an opportunity to work with them," he added.

At least 700 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq - mostly Islamic State, British police say.

About half have since returned to Britain.

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