Suspected Australian extremist fighters have been secretly negotiating with government agencies in a bid to return home but are being held back by the threat of brutal consequences from the Islamic State apparatus.
The Australian reports at least three men — two believed to have been fighting for Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East and one from Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra — have made contact with the Australian government in the last six months through family members or legal representatives.
The men, who have been in Syria for at least two years, used different channels to make their requests known to Australian authorities; one through the Australian Federal Police (AFP), another through the Australian embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara, and the other via the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.
While at least one of the men says he wants to come home to help discourage Australians from joining terror organisations at home and abroad, the government is concerned about the threat these individuals pose to Australia if returned.
If the men are found to have been fighting with terrorist organisations or if they’ve been in specific areas of Syria and Iraq, banned under the government’s new terror laws, they could face more than decade in prison.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters, “If you go, and you seek to come back, as far as this government is concerned you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be jailed.”
Yesterday, it was reported Australian teen Ifraan Hussein, who was fighting with ISIS in the Middle East, may have been beheaded by ISIS terrorists after attempting to return home to Australia.
Under the government’s Counter-Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill, introduced in October last year, travel to and from certain areas of the Middle East have been flagged as prohibited.
Australian lawyer, Rob Stary, who represents one of the three men, told The Australian that if the government embraces de-radicalisation, “it has to embrace it on all levels.”
“This includes those who know they may be charged for what they have done but who now want to renounce these groups and be co-operative,” he said.
The man he represents — Abu Ibrahim — spoke to US television network CBS earlier this year and said he joined ISIS because he wanted to live under sharia law but left because he didn’t agree with the terror group’s methods.
“My main reason for leaving was that I felt that I wasn’t doing what I had initially come for and that’s to help in a humanitarian sense the people of Syria,” he said.
“It had become something else. So, therefore, no longer justified me being away from my family.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.