MONTE CARLO, Monaco, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Would-be fighters eager to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq are traveling on swank cruise ships, say Interpol officials. A key reason is to avoid tighter security at airports.
"Because they know the airports are monitored more closely now, there's a use of cruise ships to travel to those areas," said Interpol counter-terrorism director Pierre St. Hilaire, who said cruise ship checks should be beefed up.
Prospective fighters can disembark undetected on regular stops at ports — particularly Turkey's coastal town of Izmit — then make the journey onward to Syria or Iraq, untracked by security agencies, he added.
Turkish authorities have deported hundreds of suspected foreign jihadists in recent months.
"Originally, our concern about dangerous people on cruise ships focused on the classic sort of rapist, burglar or violent criminal," said outgoing Interpol chief Ronald Noble. "But as we've gathered data, we've realized that there are more and more reports that people are using cruise ships in order to get to launch pads, closer to the conflict zones, of Syria and Iraq."
The United Nations estimates that close to 15,000 foreign jihadists from more than 80 nations have fought with Islamic State militants and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.