“Per capita Australia is one of the largest sources of war fighters from other countries outside the region to the Syrian civil war,” Senator Brandis said.
Of course they are not ‘Australian’, they are Mohammedan headbangers, who somehow obtained residency Â and in many cases citizenship. Just because you sleep in a garage doesn’t turn you into a car.
AUSTRALIANS fighting in Syria now occupy senior leadership positions with al-Qa’ida-linked groups, with new figures showing the number of passports cancelled on security grounds has soared to record levels.
Australian security officials, as well as foreign intelligence services, are understood to have identified a small number of Australians who they believe are in positions of influence with jihadists groups fighting the Assad regime in Syria.
The news represents an alarming development in the Syrian conflict, which has raged for more than two years and attracted a disproportionately high number of Australian fighters.
Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed Australians were among those in relatively senior positions.
A property at Glen Davis, near Lithgow, has become the focus of a multi-agency counterterrorism investigation amid fears it was used as a training ground by Sharrouf, who is believed to be in Syria after slipping out of the country illegally on his brother’s passport.
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While declining to discuss names, Senator Brandis said it was true that some Australians in Syria had gone beyond being mere “foot soldiers”.
“There is a small number of Australians occupying reasonably senior positions in various of the anti-regime forces,” he told The Australian. “Not all the Australians in Syria are foot soldiers.”
The minister’s remarks came as figures obtained by The Australian revealed the number of passports cancelled at the request of ASIO has hit record levels.
It is understood 33 passports have been cancelled on security grounds in the eight months since July last year. That compares to 18 passport cancellations for the entire 2012-13 financial year and seven passports in 2011-12.
Senator Brandis said the passport cancellations were a “lagging indicator” of the scale of the threat posed by Syria-bound jihadists. “This is a problem that took off very fast,” he said. “It took off really very fast in the middle of last year. The numbers went from hardly any to more than 100 in a matter of months. The rate of acceleration has eased but it’s still an upward trend line.”
Senator Brandis said the rapid escalation in the number of Australians travelling to Syria suggested the existence of “sophisticated” facilitation networks.
“I think as a matter of common sense it tells you that there must have already been pre-existing, sophisticated facilitation networks to enable and recruit that many people in such a short span of time,” he said of the increase. “And the passport cancellations are naturally a lagging indicator.”
The number of Australians thought to be in the greater Syrian theatre of Syria, Turkey and Lebanon, and who are suspected by ASIO of being actively engaged in combat, or combat support roles, range between 120 and 150, although that figure also includes a number of people in Australia with links to extremist elements.
The two most ferocious Islamic groups in Syria are the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra, both of which have been banned in Australia over links to al-Qa’ida.
It is understood at least one Australian national occupies a senior position within al-Nusra and has attracted the attention of foreign intelligence services, as well as Australia’s own agencies.
Senator Brandis repeated the government’s “serious concern” that Australians might return further radicalised and armed with training, experience and terrorist tradecraft. “Per capita Australia is one of the largest sources of war fighters from other countries outside the region to the Syrian civil war,” he said.