British Man Arrested in France on Suspicion of Terrorism Offences Related to Syria

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Police response vehicle seen near Oxford Circus underground station on November 24, 2017 in London, England. Police are responding to reports of an incident at London's Oxford Circus Tube station and have urged the public to avoid the area. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
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British authorities in France have detained a 37-year-old British national on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism, with the arrest relating to activities in Syria.

London’s Metropolitan Police, which is also the lead force for counterterrorism, revealed on Friday that the British man had been arrested on Wednesday in the British control zone in Coquelles, in the Pas-de-Calais department of northwest France, where UK authorities have a presence.

The force said in a press release that the suspect was arrested as part of a planned operation by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command and relates to activity in Syria.

He was arrested on suspicion of preparing for terrorist acts and for membership of a legally banned organisation. On Thursday, police obtained a further warrant of detention, allowing officials to continue questioning him without charge until Tuesday, May 4th.

There has been increasing concern in recent years of British nationals who left to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq returning to the UK and posing a terrorism threat.

A BBC report from 2019 quoted research that suggested that nearly 6,000 Western Europeans had left to join ISIS in the so-called Caliphate, of which around 850 were from the United Kingdom. Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace told MPs in July 2020 that that figure was closer to 900.

In 2017, British security services had reportedly identified 350 returning jihadists who pose a potential terror threat.

Two years later, an annual report by the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol claimed that 45 per cent of Britain’s foreign fighters had returned and many are “exceptionally dangerous”.

However, last year, Mr Wallace told MPs that 40 per cent of those who have left and returned had been assessed and “pose no risk or a low-security risk”.

Another 20 per cent have been killed. Of the remaining 40 per cent, they are either “at large or in facilities managed by the Syrian Democratic Forces or others” in the Middle East, Mr Wallace said.

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