A foreign spy has been detained on suspicion of helping three British schoolgirls travel to Syria to join Islamic State (IS), according to reports.
Turkish foreign minister Mehmet Cavusoglu has told reporters that the detained suspect works for the intelligence agency of a country that is part of the US-led coalition against IS.
Cavusoglu did not identify the country but said it was not the US or a member of the EU.
Cavusoglu, who was interviewed on Turkish channel A Haber TV, said he had shared the information with his British counterpart, foreign secretary Philip Hammond.
Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, flew from Gatwick to Istanbul on February 17 and are feared to have continued to Syria to become so-called ”jihadi brides” with IS militants.
Cavusoglu said: “Do you know who the person who helped the girls turned out to be? Someone who works for the intelligence service of a country that is part of the coalition. It is not an EU member, it is not the United States either.”
The three girls paid more than £1,000 (€1,400) in cash to a travel agent for their flights to Turkey and police officers believe they stole jewellery from relatives to fund the trip.
Turkish ambassador Abdurrahman Bilgic said earlier this week that British delays in handing over information about the girls had slowed down action in his country.
Despite the girls boarding a flight on February 17, Turkish embassy officials were only told at 7.55pm the next day by email, which was picked up the following day, he said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has apologised for failing to communicate more directly with the girls’ families, but insisted there was nothing more the force could have done to stop them from leaving.
The three teenagers were among seven schoolgirls who were handed letters by the police about another 15-year-old who ran away to Syria in December.
Families of the girls told MPs earlier this week there had been was no indications that the girls had been radicalised, with Shamima’s sister Sahima Begum pointing out that her sister ”was into normal teenage things” and used to watch reality TV show Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
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