March 26, 2015 / 12:12 AM / 3 years ago

UK must do more to stop foreign radicals 'preying' on teenagers: lawmakers

LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers on Thursday criticized the government for not doing more to prevent the radicalization of young Britons and to stop them and other citizens traveling to join jihadist groups in places such as Syria and Iraq.

Last month three British teenage girls traveled to Syria where they are thought to have joined Islamic State militants, sparking public recriminations over how they were radicalized and why they had been allowed to travel.

That incident, which was followed by several similar failed attempts to reach Syria, prompted the government to announce new measures to tighten border controls and has put renewed emphasis on potential gaps in Britain’s preventative schemes.

A report by an influential parliamentary committee said the government was not engaging with mosques and community groups effectively and criticized the way police, schools and parents shared information on youths considered to be at risk.

“Radical groups from abroad are preying on young British citizens through social media to encourage them to travel abroad to join them,” said Keith Vaz, chairman of parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, which produced the report.

“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.” 

It also echoed calls made by Prime Minister David Cameron for social media firms to do more to suspend the accounts of suspected extremists.

The report said policing social media sites had become impossible and said children needed to be better educated on Internet safety “in order to build a more natural resistance against radicalization through online extremist content and propaganda.”

Reporting by William James Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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