Cairo, Dec 12 (IANS/EFE) Egyptian authorities have imposed restrictions on men aged between 18 and 40 wishing to travel to Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Libya, fearing they will join jihadi groups, an official said Thursday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ayman Helmi told Efe that Egyptian men in the proscribed age range seeking to travel to these countries are required to obtain authorisation from the passports department of the ministry.
According to Helmi, the new procedure is aimed at protecting Egyptians from joining in armed conflicts and to prevent their recruitment by jihadi militias in Libya, Syria and Iraq.
In the case of Turkey, Egypt wants to prevent potential jihadis from crossing the border into neighbouring Syria to join the Islamic State, IS, radical group.
According to Western and Arab intelligence agencies, thousands of foreigners have joined the IS since its well-publicised take over of vast swathes of territory in northern Syria and Iraq beginning last summer.
Helmi said the restrictions were not a total ban on travel to these countries and are meant only to regulate visits to dangerous areas.
The spokesman also pointed out that the ministry only prohibits people from leaving the country who are facing trial or wanted on criminal charges.
Other countries have imposed or are considering similar restrictions on their citizens who wish to travel to conflict zones, especially in the Middle East.
It is estimated that hundreds of Egyptians have travelled to Syria to fight with the IS.
However, the figures are small compared to the number of potential radical recruits who have traveled from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia.