Parents who suspect their children are heading for violent jihad abroad must inform the police because having them in prison is still better than being dead, a senior counter terrorism officer said.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Southern, head of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said it was too late to help families once their loved ones had already left the country.

She delivered the stark message at Birmingham Central Mosque wearing a hijab – the first time a counter terrorism chief has worn the Muslim headscarf while making a national public statement.

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