An Cypriot official says island authorities have in the last two years prevented 18 foreign nationals from heading to Syria and possibly joining the Islamic State Group through the ethnically divided island's breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to publicly discuss security matters, said another 15 individuals were able to slip through. He said Tuesday that all 33 cases have arisen since early 2014 and that the "vast majority" of those people were "European citizens of Islamic origin."

Of the 18 who were stopped, the official said eight were British, seven French, two Swedes and a woman from the Netherlands. The individuals who slipped through included eight Britons, five Australians and two Finns.