Jihadist rebels
Jihadist rebels on a downed helicopter in Syria. Photo by AP
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Attempting to stop young Muslim men leaving their European homes in order to join the fighting in Syria, Britain and France are taking action, the first turning to their youngsters' mothers, the latter implementing deterrent 'tough love' measures.

A British police campaign will appeal to women from the Muslim community to help persuade young people not to join the exodus, organize meetings across the country and hand out leaflets outlining the risks of travelling to Syria.

Hundreds of Britons are thought to have joined rebels fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and up to 20 may have died in the conflict, the BBC reported.

"We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending ... to join the conflict," Helen Ball, National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said in a statement ahead of the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

"We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening."

Last week a father living in the English town of Brighton, Abubaker Deghayes, revealed that three of his sons had gone to fight in Syria and one had been killed in a battle, the AFP news agency reported.

Before that, a father-of-three from the London suburb of Crawley, Abdul Waheed Majeed, became the first British suicide bomber of the Syrian war.

Senior police officers and security chiefs have said they are worried the fighters could return and carry out attacks on British soil, according to Reuters.

Police were due to hold meetings across Britain on Thursday with women from different community groups, charity workers and government officials involved in preventing extremism.

A leaflet has been prepared outlining the risks of travelling to Syria, which will be handed out at airports and ports.

'Tough love'

On Tuesday France announced a series of 'tough love' measures to stop its citizens from travelling to Syria to take part in the civil war and to punish those who did.

More youth from France are thought to have embarked on journeys to Syria than from any other European country. The measures range from allowing suspicious parents to tip off authorities to withdrawing passports and putting potential jihadis' names in a European computer bank.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said this week that 500 had gone to Syria from France, double the figure given in January. Children as young as 15 have made their way to jihadi training camps. Some have been fetched by their parents and brought home to be charged.

"It's a global plan with repressive elements aimed at dismantling networks that expose our country to risks" along with preventive measures, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters.

The plan was laid out at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Among preventive measures is an alert system for parents who feel their children are at risk of taking up jihad. Parents would directly contact the Interior Ministry, which would set in motion a local plan mobilizing social services and even the educational system. Cazeneuve did not elaborate and it was not clear whether teachers and parents would, ultimately, be spying on their students and children.

In addition, authorities will withdraw passports from individuals suspected of wanting to travel to Syria. Foreign residents will be "immediately expelled" if authorities have reason to believe they participated in terrorist operations, the minister said.

France, in conjunction with European partners, also plans to increase its monitoring of websites that post videos and other messages inciting jihadi activities. Cazeneuve said he has already traveled to Germany and Austria to coordinate and will shortly be in Britain for talks.