TWO girls in Southampton as young as five have expressed a desire to running away to join Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria, according to Hampshire’s police chief.

Counter-extremism officers have spoken to the parents of four girls across Hampshire after the children’s comments about becoming jihadi brides were made to authorities.

They were approached after it was suspected they had been exposed to radical views in line with those of the militant regime.

Speaking to a newspaper police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes said he was aware of two cases in Southampton and another two eight-year old girls in Portsmouth.

He said: “It was picked up that they were making comments around jihadi brides or some sort of comments that indicated that they were getting concepts about jihad.

“At that young age, the expectation is that it is coming from adults.

“Their families were approached by the constabulary, and they are being worked with now to try and understand the situation. It is a safeguarding issue primarily.

“The officers will work with the families. Young people pick up comments and feeling and attitudes from adults.”

But Mr Hayes is to be reported to the Home Office by the leader of Portsmouth City Council after he made what is claimed to be “inaccurate” comments and which have “trivialised” the fight against extremism.

In an interview Mr Hayes said: “I do know that there is still even recently. In recent months, young girls in schools in Portsmouth saying that they would wish to become jihadi brides.”

He added: “There are problems that are current that have not been dealt with and we need as a society to deal with it.”

Donna Jones, the Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council said: “What [Mr Hayes] is doing is sending out the wrong message and managing this the wrong way. The lack of professionalism is unbelievable. I am deeply, deeply concerned.”

Earlier this week officers in London had to intervene to stop a 16-year old girl from east London planning on running away to Syria.

Authorities believe that about 700 people from the UK have already travelled to Syria and Iraq to join jihadists fighting for IS, with some girls drawn to the idea of marrying one of the fighters.

Southampton City Councillor Satvir Kaur, cabinet member for communities, said she was not aware of anyone from Southampton wanting to join IS fighters.

She said: “I think it’s really important to make a distinction between Southampton and Portsmouth.

“Southampton is very multi cultural. It prides itself on being a very cohesive city with a variety of diverse communities integrated into the fabric of the city.

“I haven’t in my personal or professional capacity comes across any extremism that residents or authorities need to deal with.

“If there are any problems they will be dealt with accordingly by the local authorities including Hampshire police.”