ASIO Has Already Suspended Up To 70 Australian Passports

Police raided homes across Sydney and Brisbane last week. Image: Police Media.

Radicalisation of a number of Australian citizens is driving the federal government’s changes to counter-terror legislation which includes increased powers to security and intelligence organisations.

Between 60 and 70 Australians have already had their passports suspended on recommendations from ASIO in an effort to stop individuals from joining the ISIS fight in Syria and Iraq, Fairfax Media reports.

The SMH today reported a “sizeable proportion” of the men involved in last week’s counter terrorism raids across Sydney and Brisbane, as well as 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider who was shot dead by police after an altercation in Melbourne on Tuesday night, had had their passports cancelled.

Canning passports is a strategy security officials hope will stop the flow of Australian citizens to the Middle East where they can be trained by ISIS forces before returning radicalised.

However security agencies have said there are already a hundred or so ISIS supporters living in Australia and some terrorism experts have warned suspending passports can heighten the risk of such individuals acting in vengeance on home soil.

Addressing media in New York today after a UN Security Council resolution aimed at stopping the flow of foreign fighters around the world was unanimously passed, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there are at least 60 people who are currently fighting with ISIL, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and more than 20 individuals who have returned to Australia.

“We’ve got over 60 who have had their passports cancelled because we believe they are seeking to go to Syria and Iraq to fight,” he said.

“We’ve got at least 100 who are supporting those who are fighting in Syria and Iraq.”

The risk of a lone-wolf attack is one that security agencies and police are taking seriously, especially after the stabbing of two police officers in Melbourne this week.

“These are quite significant numbers, because as we’ve seen, it only takes one or two people to commit a brutal terrorist atrocity,” Abbott said.

“It only took two people to murder that unfortunate British soldier in the streets of London a year ago. It doesn’t take many people to commit an act of terrorism. As I have said a few times lately, all you need is a knife, an iPhone and a victim. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that at all times, and in every way, our government remains vigilant.”

Six of the men whose homes were raided last Thursday had already had their passports suspended.

Police conducted Australia’s largest counter-terrorism operation last week. Image: Police Media.

Under proposed new counter-terrorism legislation introduced to parliament by Attorney-General George Brandis on Wednesday radicalised individuals could be jailed for up to five years for engaging in extremist behaviour, including advocating a terrorist act.

It also paves the way for passports to be suspended for up to two weeks without notifying the individual and if passed will make it illegal to travel to a “declared zone” where a terrorist organisation is operating.

There’s more here.

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