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UK committee urges more preventive work against radicalization

A UK parliamentary committee has urged the need to engage more with local communities to prevent youths from joining jihadis. Concerns have risen after three British girls traveled to Syria to join jihadis.

A report by the British parliament's Home Affairs Committee published on Friday said that the government needed to undertake more preventive work with communities to ensure that young people were not radicalized by jihadi groups and motivated to fight for them.

Concerns on the radicalization of British youth were raised last month after three teenage girls traveled to Syria and were thought to have joined "Islamic State" (IS) militants. The incident ignited a public discussion on how the girls were radicalized and why they were allowed to travel.

Preventive work with communities

The British government announced new methods to tighten border controls following the incident, but the Home Affairs Committee's report said there was an urgent need to engage with the community and develop partnerships with mosques, which would play "a key role in Prevent counter-terrorism programs."

Prevent is one of the four principal areas of the UK's broader counter-terrorism strategy aimed at stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism.

The committee, under the leadership of lawmaker Keith Vaz (pictured above) said there was an urgent need to create deadlines for the implementation of the "Ibaana" prison counter-radicalization program, which envisaged support for counselors, whose work was to combat extremist ideologies in prisoners.

London Britische Teenager Flughafen Richtung Islamischer Staat

These three teenage schoolgirls are believed to have travelled to Syria via Turkey last month

Vaz said police needed "to engage in a regular and open dialogue with schools and community groups." Schools and police would also inform parents immediately, were they to see signs of any radicalization. Parents, on the other hand, needed to be provided "less extreme" options other than the existing anti-terrorist hotline in the UK to speak about their children's suspected radicalization.

Preventive work on the Internet

The committee admitted that it was practically impossible to police social media sites such as Twitter. Instead, young people needed to "be equipped with the skills to become critical consumers of online content, in order to build a more natural resistance against radicalization," the report said.

The report also suggested that social media companies be prepared to suspend accounts of users suspected to promote violent extremism.

"This must be a relentless battle for hearts and minds, and without a strong counter-narrative, we are in danger of failing to prevent even more departures. We are at the edge of a cliff," the report said, referring to youths who were pulled by Islamist organizations through the Internet and otherwise.

The Home Affairs Committee in its report criticized the British government's lack of programs for individuals returning to Britain in cases where it had been confirmed that they had fought in Syria. The committee also asked for better counter-terrorism partnerships internationally "to tackle the growing number of young people traveling to these conflict zones to join extremist groups."

mg/msh (Reuters)

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