Labour Leader Ed Miliband faced huge embarrassment as it was revealed that one of the nine Britons arrested in Turkey for trying to cross the border to war torn Syria is the son of a Labour councillor from Rochdale.
Councillor Shakil Ahmed said he was “shocked, worried and extremely upset” to find out his 22-year-old son, Waheed Ahmed, was being held by Turkish authorities, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The nine members of the group, who were all from the same family, will now be deported back to the UK where counter-terrorism police wait to question them.
Included in the gang were four children aged one, three, eight and 11, who are likely to be taken into the care of social services and the local authority.
They, along with the five adults – four in their 20s and one aged 47 – are understood to be related and living in Rochdale.
They were all arrested at a paramilitary outpost in Reyhanli, a Turkish town near the border of Syria which is held by rebels, rather than IS terrorists.
In a statement, the Rochdale councillor said his son was a “good Muslim” whose “loyalties belong to Britain”.
“I don’t understand what he’s doing there,” he said. “If I thought for a second that he was in danger of being radicalised I would have reported him to the authorities.”
“He’s studying a degree in politics and sociology at Manchester University and has a good future ahead of him.”
Mr Ahmed added that he thought his son was on a work placement in Birmingham.
Manchester Police say they have started an investigation into why the nine were in Turkey and seemed to be making their way into Syria.
Ass Chief Constable Ian Wiggett said it was “obviously concerning” that a family were taking very young childen into a warzone.
“Such a volatile and dangerous environment is no place for them whatsoever,” he said.
“We have commenced an investigation to try and establish their reasons for travel and as this is a live investigation – which is very much in its infancy – we are not in a position to comment further.”
He said the primary concern was for “the safety and welfare of the young children and we are working with partners to ensure a full safeguarding strategy is in place upon their return to the UK”.
Gail Hopper, director of children’s services at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “We are aware of the situation and cooperating with Greater Manchester Police. As there is an ongoing criminal investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, said taking young children into a warzone was “despicable” and the group “condemn the adults who have done this.”
He said, “The news that nine people from Rochdale including children have been arrested in Turkey trying to get into Syria is deeply worrying.”