Specialist police officers are channelling youngsters into activities such as Bradford City youth football schemes to keep them out of the clutches of Islamic extremists.

West Yorkshire Chief Consta-ble Sir Norman Bettison has warned that schoolchildren as young as 13 are being groomed for terrorism and at least ten young people, aged between 13 and 27, have been identified as vulnerable by his force.

They have been formally referred to the Channel Programme, piloted by five police forces with Government funding, to wean them away from radicalism.

Five full-time community field officers in West Yorkshire work among the county's 225,000 Muslims to identify those being preyed upon.

The officers talk to educational, social services and Muslim groups to look for children showing an unusual interest in violent, extremist material.

They then talk to their parents and try to get the youngsters to take part in activities such as youth football, table tennis and citizenship classes.

Sir Norman, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on PREVENT, the four-point Counter-Terrorism measures, said bright children entering secondary school were picking up extremist messages from internet chat rooms.

He said: "We are talking about children who have just entered senior school. They are not picking up the message of violent extremism from the mosques but from individuals who are seeking to radicalise them. It's the bright children who are the ones that might be most vulnerable.

"We have seen, at first hand, how people who were our neighbours in West Yorkshire became involved in violent extremism, resulting in terrible loss of life on July 7, 2005.

"We will never know if early intervention with Mohammed Sadiq Khan and his accomplices might have prevented that atrocity. But we do know that others will follow, trying to exploit vulnerable people in those communities."