Turkey has accused Britain of a "reprehensible" delay in informing the Turkish authorities over the departure to its territory of three teenage British girls feared to be on their way to join the jihad in Syria.
The three girls, aged between 15 and 17, boarded a flight from London to Istanbul last week and police suspect they planned to transit Turkish territory on their way to join Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist fighters in Syria, reports AFP.
Trying to shift blame from his nation's porous borders that jihadists have long taken advantage as the premier route to jihad in Syria, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc told Turkish reporters late Monday after a cabinet meeting the UK was at fault.
"It is a reprehensible act for Britain, a country famous for its Scotland Yard, to let the three girls…leave Heathrow airport (London) for Istanbul and then let us know three days later," Arinc said, claiming they were notified three days after the girls arrived in Istanbul.
"Turkey cannot be held responsible for what happened," he added. "We don't have a mechanism in place that allows us to question the intentions of tourists and read their minds."
However, London's Metropolitan Police, also known as Scotland Yard, responded saying they had informed Turkish authorities the day after the girls disappeared.
"Once we established that the girls had traveled to Turkey, police made contact with the foreign liaison officer at the Turkish embassy in London on Wednesday, 18 February," police said in a statement.
"Since then we have been working closely with the Turkish authorities who are providing great assistance and support to our investigation."
Turkey has repeatedly been accused by its Western allies of failing to do enough to stop the transfer of jihadists, as well as their female companions, across its territory on their way to Syria.
Arinc's complaints echo similar remarks made by Turkish officials after Hayat Boumeddiene, the wanted partner of one of the gunmen behind the January terror attacks in France, traveled undetected through Turkey on her way to Syria.
In that case, Ankara accused the French authorities of failing to share information in a timely manner about the wanted woman's departure for Turkey.
Most female recruits to ISIS reportedly end up serving as wives, baby-sitters or home caretakers for the terrorists, although some join in the fighting directly as well.
CNN anchorwoman Carol Costello last Wednesday reported that ISIS has been using Nutella chocolate spread, kittens, and emoji computer ideograms as part of a wide-ranging online recruitment campaign targeting young women, particularly in the west.