Turkey criticises Britain over missing schoolgirls

Turkey criticises Britain for taking too long to inform it about three London schoolgirls who travelled to Turkey last week possibly en route to join Islamist militants in Syria.

ANKARA, TURKEY (FEBRUARY 23, 2015) (REUTERS) – Turkey criticised Britain on Monday (February 23) for taking too long to inform it about three London schoolgirls who travelled to Turkey last week possibly en route to join Islamist militants in Syria.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said he hoped the girls would be found, but that it would be Britain, not Turkey, to blame if they were not.

“A country such as Britain, renowned for Scotland Yard, has not closely followed three girls about whom there were previous allegations. We were informed three days after they left Heathrow freely and came to Istanbul. This is a reprehensible, condemnable act for Britain,” Arinc told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The three London schoolgirls arrived at Istanbul airport on February 17 and British authorities, concerned that they were travelling to join Islamic State fighters, informed Ankara on February 20, Arinc said.

Turkey was able to do little to track the movements of three people who had entered as tourists, he said.

“Turkey can never be responsible for people’s whereabouts since they came to Turkey three days ago with their passports as tourist without any obstacles.”

Arinc said Turkey had banned nearly 10,000 people from entering Turkey on suspicion of terrorist activities.

Thousands of foreigners from more than 80 countries have joined the ranks of Islamic State and other radical groups in Syria and Iraq, many crossing through Turkey.

Turkey has said it needs more detailed and faster information from Western intelligence agencies to intercept them.