A COWLEY man was last night being quizzed by counter-terrorism detectives on suspicion of supporting the fighting in Syria.
The 29-year-old was among four suspects arrested in dawn raids across the country yesterday morning.
The arrest was made by police investigating terrorists travelling to or supporting fighting in war zones and the suspect was held on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
Last night, Oxford’s community leaders condemned interference in the country’s ongoing civil war.
Dr Hojjat Ramzy, director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, said: “I do not recommend anyone goes and takes sides. Let them sort it by themselves.
“I do not believe people should go to put more petrol in the flames.
“It is fire and it is totally wrong.”
The Home Office yesterday told the Oxford Mail the number of people in the UK it had linked to terrorism relating to Syria was “in the low hundreds”, and Oxford was one of several areas across the south being monitored for activity.
Government ministers believe about 250 Britons who went to train and fight in the war-torn country have now returned to the UK.
Syrian-born author and academic Bassam Saeh – who moved to Oxford more than 30 years ago – said the country needed aid and humanitarian support, not more fighters.
He said: “I myself feel guilty that I can do nothing.”
But he said: “To me as a Syrian, I don’t want any of these people to help the Syrians this way.”
He also estimated there were more than 100 Syrian families living in Oxford.
The North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) also arrested three people in Manchester on suspicion of the same crime.
All suspects – who last night had not been charged with any crime – were yesterday being questioned by police in Manchester while officers searched the properties raided in Oxford and Manchester.
Greater Manchester Police declined to reveal precise locations of the arrests.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, head of the NWCTU, said: “We look at every case on its own merits, but travelling to a war zone in order to be involved in conflict, or supporting those who do so, could make you potentially liable to prosecution for terrorism offences.
“Also, as well as posing a risk to themselves, there is the very real threat that they could pose a danger to our own communities when they return to the UK.”
The three suspects arrested in Manchester were two men, aged 18 and 29, from Levenshulme, and a 21-year-old woman from Trafford.
In January, 16 people were detained on suspicion of terror offences relating to Syria in the country, compared to just 24 arrests for the whole of last year.
About nine million Syrians are thought to have been displaced during the civil war, which started in 2011.
Anyone wanting to report any suspected terror-related activity can call the Anti- Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.