Lena Mamoun Abdul Gadir, A 19-year-old British woman who crossed into Syria through the Turkish border to join the ISIL group. (Photo: DHA)
A 19-year-old British woman, one of a group of medical students that includes seven Britons, an American and a Canadian thought to have travelled to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has told her family she wants to go home, a Turkish lawmaker has said.
"A female student, 19-year-old Lena, has sent a message to her family saying she wants to go back. We will try tomorrow to bring her and those who are with her back, if we can persuade them," opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Mehmet Ali Ediboğlu said in a television interview late on Wednesday.
Thousands of foreigners from different countries have joined the ranks of radical groups such as ISIL, many of them crossing through Turkey. Turkey has stepped up border security, regularly releasing details of would-be fighters it has detained, after criticism it had not done enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters through the region.
The medical students, aged between 19 and 25, and who include two from Sudan, flew from the Sudanese capital Khartoum to Istanbul on March 12. A Turkish government official has said the British, Turkish and Sudanese security services were jointly investigating but gave no further details.
In a separate incident, Turkey's military released a statement on Wednesday saying that nine British citizens have been arrested trying to cross into Syria. The military revealed that they were taken into custody in Hatay province, but didn't say when.
These nine are among a series of recent instances of British citizens attempting to reach Syria through Turkey. Last month a 21-year-old woman and three British teenagers were detained in two separate incidents en route to Syria after arriving in Turkey.
While Syria's neighbors are grappling to stem the flow of international fighters, the number of those leaving home to join al-Qaeda and ISIL in Iraq, Syria and other countries has spiked to more than 25,000, with fighters coming from over 100 nations, according to a new UN report.