Australia detains seven suspected militants at airport

Australian officials detain seven young nationals at airport who allegedly attempted to fly to Middle East to become militants

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday that seven young nationals were prevented from leaving the country over suspicions they wanted to join militant groups in the Middle East.

"We have stopped at the airport, seven young Australians who were planning to travel to the Middle East, it seems, to join terrorist groups over there," he told reporters in Canberra.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported five of the men all tried to leave through Sydney Airport together on a flight initially to Malaysia, on August 12, carrying sums of money, which triggered an alert.

Australian Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said five men, aged between 20 and 30, were found to be carrying about A$10,000 ($7,347) when their luggage was searched

Dutton added that the other two men were stopped when they attempted to board a flight from Sydney and those two had connections with the five men detained earlier.

Some of the suspects were reported to be known to the authorities and their passports were immediately suspended under new laws that entered into force this year.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by militant groups, including home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

Accordingly, the government has raised its threat level to "high" and initiated a series of high-level operations in major cities.

In addition to attempts to safeguard against any domestic attacks, Australian officials have intensified efforts to prevent radicalised citizens from joining militant groups such as ISIS.

Since last year, in a bid to prevent foreign fighters traveling to the Middle East, many counterterrorism units were posted at all international airports and prevented 336 suspected men from leaving Australian airports in the last 12 months through June.  Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said another 125 Australians have been grounded by having their passports cancelled.

Australian Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday "We are concerned about the number of people presenting at airports, particularly younger people, who might be seeking to travel overseas for reasons that would horrify Australians and their parents and family and community no doubt as well."

Similarly, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the parliament that at least 70 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria, backed by about 100 Australia-based "facilitators."

TRTWorld and agencies