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Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014

World

Austria stops schoolgirls going to Syria to join militants

AFP | Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner addresses a news conference in Vienna August 22, 2014. Mikl-Leitner said support for radical Islamists was on the rise in Austria and called for closer European cooperation to address the issue.

VIENNA - Austrian police prevented two schoolgirls aged 14 and 15 from travelling to Syria, officials said Wednesday with press reports saying they wanted to join Islamist guerrillas.

European countries have tightened controls to stop people travelling to join Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq -- not all of them men.

The two girls were picked up by police in the southern Austrian city of Graz "with full suitcases ... intending to go to Syria," interior ministry spokesman Alexander Marakovits told AFP.

The Kronen Zeitung daily reported that the two girls got to know each other on the web and that one of them had said she wanted "to support IS, it doesn't matter where".

The Vienna mother of one of the Muslim girls, one of them a recent convert to Islam, went to the police on Friday and they were picked up at the home of a friend in Graz the next day.

"They did not commit any crime and are being treated as victims who perhaps fell into the wrong circle of friends at what is an impressionable age," Marakovits said.

"We are looking into how they were influenced, whether it be via the Internet or by actual people either in Austria or elsewhere."

The two girls allegedly intended to fly to Turkey and then cross the border into Syria. In May two other Austrian girls of Bosnian origin reportedly left to "fight for Islam" in Syria.

The ministry spokesman said that 142 Austrians, including 12 women, were thought to be in Syria. Ten suspected would-be jihadis have been arrested in Austria since mid-August.

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