Updated: Popular Australian cleric seeks to travel to Syria, join Islamic State
Musa Cerantonio claimed he arrived in Syria on July 3, however he was reported to have been arrested in the Philippines on July 11. See Threat Matrix report, Australian cleric who joined Islamic State captured in Philippines.
A popular radical Muslim cleric from Australia has joined the newly established Islamic State and claimed he traveled to Syria to support the establishment of the caliphate.
Musa Cerantonio, who in the past had renounced his Australian citizenship, announced on his Twitter account that he has "arrived in the land of Khilafah [Caliphate] in Ash-Sham [Syria]!" Cerantonio issued the statement on July 3.
Cerantonio telegraphed his desire to travel to the Middle East. On July 1, Cerantonio announced that he "will be arriving in Ash-Sham very shortly, keep us in your du'a [supplications or prayers], getting ready to travel."
Cerantonio was thought to be hiding in the Philippines since leaving Australia in 2013. The map on the banner of his Twitter page indicates he resided in the southern Philippines, as the island of Mindanao and others are shown. He was likely sheltering with one of several al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups while in the Philippines.
Prior to his claim of traveling to Syria, Cerantonio had openly supported the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the name of the Islamic State before it announced the formation of the caliphate on June 29.
Cerantonio call to travel to Syria fulfills the request by the Islamic State for Muslims, especially those with needed skills, to join the caliphate. On July 1, the Islamic State released a statement from Baghdadi in which he "issued 'a special call' to religious workers as well as for 'people with military, administrative, and service expertise, and medical doctors and engineers of all different specializations and fields,'" to come to Iraq and Syria, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
In the past, Cerantonio served as a propagandist for the group, and dutifully retweeted the group's statements as well as his own supporting the group and its recent advances in Iraq. He has also called for the death of Western leaders.
He praised "the establishment of the Khilafah" and said the formation of the Islamic State "is a glad tiding for all Muslims and brings great joy to us."
"May Allah bless and protect our Imam, our Amir, our Khalifah, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi," he said on July 1, just before he began traveling to Syria.
The Australian cleric "relies on his effective use of social media networks to propagate support for a world-wide jihad against the West and encourage Muslims to join the ISIS in Syria and Iraq," according to the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, or TRAC. He is considered to be a popular figure in jihadist circles.
"A study conducted during early 2014 by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation concluded that one in four foreign fighters followed Cerantonio's Twitter account and that his Facebook page was the third-most 'liked' page among jihadists," TRAC continued.
Two other radical clerics from Australia have traveled to Syria to support the jihadist cause. Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, a firebrand cleric while in Australia, is currently a senior sharia (Islamic law) official in the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, which is a rival of the Islamic State. Abu Sulayman has been critical of the Islamic State in the past.
Mustapha al Majzoub, a dual Australian and Syrian citizen who resided in Sydney before traveling to Syria, was killed in a rocket attack in Aleppo on Aug. 19, 2012. According to jihadists, Majzoub was known for his efforts to recruit fighters from Australia, and had gone to Syria in June to "join the resistance alongside jihadi Salafis."