Officers investigating a number of people suspected of being involved in travelling to or supporting fighting in war-zones have today, Tuesday 11 March 2014, made four arrests.
Detectives have arrested three people in Manchester on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Two men aged 29 and 18 both from Levenshulme, and a 21-year-old woman from Trafford are now in police custody.
Officers from the South East Counter Terrorism Unit (SECTU), supporting the NWCTU, have also arrested a 29-year-old man from Oxford on suspicion of the same offence. They have all been brought into custody in Manchester and are now being interviewed by officers from NWCTU.
A number of properties are now being searched.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, Head of the NWCTU, said: “First and foremost I should reassure everyone that none of today’s activity is linked in any way to any imminent threats in Greater Manchester or the UK.
“The operation has been running since autumn 2013 since we first became aware of a number of individuals travelling from the North West to the battlefields of Syria.
“You may have seen headlines in recent months linking people from Manchester to Syria and you will naturally have been concerned about this.
“Like other major cities across the UK we have been aware for some time of people travelling to war-torn places for terrorism-related purposes. This is not a problem unique to Manchester or the North West – it is an issue that affects different communities across the country and elsewhere.
“We look at every case on its own merits, but travelling to a warzone in order to be involved in conflict, or supporting those who do so, could make you potentially liable to prosecution for terrorism offences.
“Also, as well as posing a risk to themselves, there is the very real threat that they could pose a danger to our own communities when they return to the UK.
“This is why the National Prevent Programme is key. Our Prevent officers work in the community – out there in the real world, dealing with real lives – to help those at risk of being radicalised.
“The National Prevent Programme sees officers working to assess how people are drawn into travelling to Syria to become involved in conflict and how to prevent others doing the same.
“There is naturally widespread concern about the situation in Syria and other conflict zones and the way that some will be driven to travel there to engage in humanitarian work or to take part in the fighting. We know that some have already lost their lives or been detained by the regime and badly treated.
“There are serious concerns that anyone travelling to Syria, whether for humanitarian reasons or because of a desire to support the Syrian opposition, may be targeted by extremist groups who want to recruit them. This could have serious repercussions for the safety of the individual concerned.
“By travelling there people will be causing distress and anxiety to their families and friends, not to mention the wider community.
“They offer practical help to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given appropriate advice and support. Of course, this isn’t the sole role of the police. We work with a range of partners, including education, criminal justice, faith, charities, the internet and health.
“Finally, if you are concerned about a friend or family member who has gone missing you should contact the police via the 101 non-emergency number.”
If you see or hear anything that could be terrorist-related trust your instincts and call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.