Children as young as seven have reportedly been identified to be "potentially vulnerable to violent extremism", by British police who have referred them to a government outreach programme for individuals considered at risk of being radicalized and turning to violence.
According to reports, up to 10 primary school children, aged between seven and 10, have been referred to the anti-terrorism Channel project after being singled out, with some expressing a wish to become suicide bombers.
AdvertisementIt is believed that the children took inspiration from jihadi websites, and one child was referred to the programme by his teacher after writing on a school book: "I want to be a suicide bomber."
Other youngsters were identified by their parents after suddenly adopting traditional Muslim dress or espousing extremist views.
"For people to be identified there have to be distinct changes in behavior and warning signs. We assess each one on its own merits. There is a very small number of children aged seven, eight and nine," The Times quoted Craig Denholm, deputy chief constable of Surrey police who oversees the programme, as saying.
"The programme is not appropriate for people who are dangerous or have passed over into violent extremism. The whole purpose is to persuade," Denholm said.
The Channel project was launched after the 7/7 suicide attacks in London in 2005, when 52 commuters died. It is run by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers, but also involves schools, social workers and youth workers.