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British Teens On Their Way To Syria Are Returned Home

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also tracking the drive to stop people from traveling from the West to join the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS. Over the weekend, three British teenagers were stopped. They were allegedly on their way to Syria. They've been arrested instead and sent back to the U.K. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Two of the boys are 17. One is 19. Their names have not been released. On Friday, the parents reported them missing. British authorities alerted Turkish officials. And on Saturday, the teenagers were detained at the airport in Istanbul. All three were arrested and accused up preparing to commit terrorist acts. Lawmaker Keith Vaz chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee. He spoke to the BBC.

(SOUNDBITE OF BBC INTERVIEW)

KEITH VAZ: This would have been another propaganda coup - a huge propaganda coup - for ISIL. So I think the system is working much better, and the Turkish authorities certainly have done their bit.

SHAPIRO: He said it's a huge improvement over an incident over a few weeks ago when three teenage girls from East London slipped past British and Turkish authorities. They're believed to be in Syria now. The girls' families released a statement over the weekend, read here by their lawyer, Mohammed Akunjee.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATEMENT READING)

MOHAMMED AKUNJEE: With respect to the disappearance of our children, we have been disappointed by the handling of this matter by the school, Met Police and the local authority, all of whom we feel failed to act appropriately and pass on vital information to us or, indeed, between each other.

SHAPIRO: Research groups estimate that more than 20,000 fighters from around the world have gone to join ISIS - 600 of them from the U.K, though the vast majority are adults, not teenagers. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.