ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police on Monday arrested a missing British couple with four children believed to have left England for Syria to join the Islamic State group, an official said.
Asif Malik and his partner, Sara Kiran, were arrested in a hotel in Ankara and their four children — aged between 12 months and 7 years old — were also taken into custody, the official said on condition of anonymity because of Turkish rules requiring prior authorization for comment. The family is expected to be deported.
The Associated Press obtained photos from Turkey's government of members of the British family in Ankara.
On Sunday, British police and Malik's family appealed for information about the family who haven't been in England since early April. The family said that they had left the United Kingdom without any notice. British police said that Malik had expressed an interest in living in a Muslim country.
British authorities had said that there was no suggestion the family was doing any fighting in Syria, and it was unclear whether they were sympathetic to members of the Islamic State group or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the Turkish official said that authorities believe the family was seeking to go to territory controlled by IS.
The official said that British authorities provided information to Turkish counterparts on Sunday and that police were able to track the family from the Greek border, where they crossed by bus on April 16. British police have said that the family was seen boarding a ferry crossing the British channel on April 8 and were believed to have crossed Europe by train.
Turkish officials have recently praised cooperation with Britain on a stream of people traveling between the two countries en route to Syria— including teenagers as young as 15. They have been pressing other countries for more help.
Turkey says that in response to the concern that it has become a major transit country for foreign fighters, it has now built a no-entry list of 12,500 people, 20 percent of whom are European. Another government official, speaking on condition of anonymity for similar reasons, says that about 1,300 people suspected of militant ties have been deported since early 2014.