Turkey says Syrian national helped British teen girls

13th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Three British girls who crossed into Syria to join the Islamic State group were helped by a Syrian working as a spy for a country in the US-led coalition, Turkey's foreign minister said Friday.

Meanwhile, video footage emerged purportedly showing the agent helping the girls into a car in southeastern Turkey on their way to Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had unexpectedly announced Thursday Turkey's arrest of an intelligence agent who had helped the three teenage girls cross into Syria.

Amid frenetic speculation over which intelligence agency the man was allegedly spying for, Cavusoglu refrained from giving details.

"The person arrested by us is someone working for an intelligence agency in the coalition," he said in televised comments in Ankara.

The man "is a Syrian citizen," he told reporters alongside his Macedonian counterpart without specifying further.

The A-Haber television channel broadcast footage of the alleged spy, bearded and wearing glasses, held by two plain clothes officers as he was led to a court hearing and then a medical test.

Separate A-Haber footage, also posted by the website of the Sabah daily, showed the man meeting the three girls at what appears to be a bus station in southern Turkey and then putting them into a car to go to Syria.

Sabah said the agent shot the footage himself although it was not clear how the images had been obtained.

The trio are only partially shown but are all seen wearing Islamic headscarves.

The man, who resembled the individual under arrest in the other footage, greets the three girls and speaks in a mixture of English and Arabic.

"Yalla sis!" ("Let's go, sister"), he says. "Go to this car... one, two, three," he adds, as the baggage is loaded.

"I forget to give you the passports," he says with a laugh. He says "there is a good weather for them" and tells the three it will only take an hour to get to the border.

- Canada denies link -

The Milliyet daily reported Friday that the individual was working for Canadian intelligence, but Ottawa has already denied this.

A senior official in Ottawa told AFP Thursday the suspect "is not a Canadian citizen" and "was not employed by" its spy agency.

However Sabah repeated the claim that the man was a Syrian working for Canadian intelligence.

Cavusoglu had said the day earlier that the person arrested was not from the EU or the United States.

Along with the US and EU states, Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been involved in the coalition against IS, as well as Australia and Canada.

Close friends Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, crossed into Syria after boarding a flight from London to Istanbul on February 17.

They took a bus from Istanbul to the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa close to the Syrian border, from where they are believed to have crossed the frontier.

Turkey appears to be using the revelation that three girls were helped by a spy to refute Western criticism it is not doing enough to halt the flow of extremists across its borders.

Ankara accused Britain last month of a "reprehensible" delay in informing the Turkish authorities about the departure of the three girls for its territory.

Cavusoglu said Thursday he had informed his British counterpart Philip Hammond of the spy's arrest.

"He told me 'just as usual'," said Cavusoglu, without elaborating further.

© 2015 AFP

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