jihadi brides
Hundreds of British women are said to be desperate to go to Syria Twitter

British girls as young as five dream of becoming jihadi brides, a police commissioner has claimed.

Simon Hayes, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, said that young girls in Portsmouth had said they aspired to travel to Syria to become jihadi brides.

Portsmouth has been classed as a second-tier area under the national counter extremism Prevent scheme, meaning there is a higher risk of radicalism.

In a BBC interview he highlighted issues within the Portsmouth community which may have devastating consequences.

I have no malicious criticism of the city council whatsoever. But I do know that there are still, in recent months, young girls in schools in Portsmouth saying that they would wish to become jihadi brides.
- Simon Hayes, Police And Crime Commissioner for Hampshire

During the BBC interview, he said: "I have no malicious criticism of the city council whatsoever. But I do know that there are still, in recent months, young girls in schools in Portsmouth saying that they would wish to become jihadi brides.

"These are young girls at the ages of five and six so these are problems that are current, that have not been dealt with and we need as a society to deal with it," he explained.

His comments have enraged the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, who said she is "deeply, deeply concerned" by his handling of matters of national security and described his comments as "extremely disappointing".

In an open letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Jones has questioned Hayes's conduct saying: "I am extremely disappointed and have serious concerns about these inaccurate allegations, which have politicised and trivialised this important national security issue.

"We have forged strong links with residents, community leaders and organisations and work is under way to raise awareness of hate crime and extremism, as well as establishing what more can be done to prevent young people travelling to Syria.

"I would like to take this opportunity to request that you direct special branch to provide Simon Hayes with enhanced training on how to deal with critical matters relating to national security."

She added: "What he is doing is sending out the wrong message and managing this the wrong way. The lack of professionalism is unbelievable."

Polly Honeychurch, head teacher of Cottage Grove Primary School, in Portsmouth, which has a large percentage of Muslim pupils, reiterated her sentiment, accusing the police chief of scaremongering.

She said: "I am absolutely incensed by Mr Hayes's claims. Sixty per cent of my school pupils come from ethnic backgrounds, and a large proportion of those are Muslim.

"About half of my Muslim pupils are girls. I haven't heard a single five or six-year-old Muslim girl saying they want to be a jihadi bride. I am very aware of the Portsmouth Muslims who have been killed in Syria and aware of the families who have been charged with terror offences," she explained.

London school girls
Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, left on a flight to Turkey to join Islamic State in February Met Police

"I have tried to get the police into school to work with the children on this whole issue, but the Prevent strategy and the police involved in it are only going into secondary schools. What Hayes said is scaremongering. We need people to understand different faiths and where people come from."

Meanwhile, Hayes responded to Jones's letter to the Home Secretary, accusing the council leader of "launching a personal attack" on him.

"What I would have expected from Donna was her to say we are taking this seriously, to say this is what we have done, these are our plans for the future, instead of launching a personal attack around my professionalism saying I have made the situation worse in Portsmouth.

"What I am looking for the council to do is reassure me, reassure the wider public and reassure the home secretary that the city council have a plan to take on the responsibilities which the government has given them.

"Hampshire Constabulary is engaging with primary school children in Portsmouth. They are aware that primary school children in Portsmouth are at risk of being radicalised."

Hayes's comments come amid concerns about the growing number of teenagers travelling to Syria to join ISIS. Young girls have been targeted on social media and groomed to give up their families and flee to join the terror group.

60 British women and girls have fled the UK to become jihadi brides including three girls from Bethnal Green in East London who ran away in February.

Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, crossed over the Turkish-Syrian border and are now believed to be living in Raqqa. It was recently rumoured that they were now on the run from their husbands. While the reports have not been confirmed, it is the case that many British runaways do attempt to return to the UK, becoming quickly disillusioned with the brutal reality of their new lives. However, their passports are most likely withheld and attempts to escape are futile, most probably resulting in execution.

This week, Metropolitan Police counter terrorism officers stopped a 16-year-old girl from London travelling to Syria after she was groomed on Twitter to flee to the war zone and marry an Islamic State (Isis) soldier.

At least 250 young Britons are believed to have fled the UK to join Isis. Many believe the figure to be much higher.