Turkey detains ‘foreign intelligence operative’ suspected of helping Syria girls

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A foreign intelligence operative suspected of helping three British schoolgirls join the Islamic State extremist group has been detained in Turkey.

Turkish foreign minister Mehmet Cavusoglu said the suspect acted even though they worked for the intelligence agency of a country that is part of the US-led anti-IS coalition.

Mr Cavusoglu did not identify the country but said it was not the United States or a member of the European Union.

The minister, who was interviewed on A Haber TV, said he had shared the information with his British counterpart. The three teenagers travelled to Turkey last month, from where they are believed to have crossed into Syria.

In the interview, Mr Cavusoglu said: “Do you know who the person who helped the girls turned out to be?

“Someone who worked for the intelligence service of a country that is part of the coalition. It is not an EU member, it is not the United States either.”

Meanwhile, rockets and mortars echoed across Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit yesterday as Iraqi security forces clashed with Islamic State militants a day after sweeping into the Sunni city north of Baghdad.

Recapturing Tikrit is seen as a key step towards rolling back the extremist group, which seized much of northern and western Iraq last summer and controls about a third of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi troops and allied Shiite militiamen entered Tikrit for the first time on Wednesday from the north and south. The head of the military operation said yesterday that troops would launch phase two of the offensive later in the day as they try to reach the city centre.

The militants are trying to repel security forces with snipers, suicide car bombs, heavy machine guns and mortars, he
said.

Iraqi defence minister Khaled al-Obeidi said he expected security forces to reach the centre of Tikrit within three to four days.