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Intelligence chief David Irvine said that about 60 Australians are fighting in Syria or Iraq for the Islamic State or the Al Nusrah Front, and that 15 of them have died fighting there, two as suicide bombers. Irvine also warned that "dozens" have already returned home, and that another 100 Australians are known to be actively supporting jihadists groups at home by recruiting fighters, including suicide bombers, and assisting with financing. Officials said new counterterrorism units that began working at Australia's airports a week ago have stopped two would-be jihadists from traveling abroad to fight. The trial of Adnan Karabegovic, 26, suspected of planning to carry out al Qaeda-inspired terrorist acts, has been postponed. Authorities continue to monitor the activities of the relatives of the Pendennis Nine, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group uncovered in 2005, which are thought now to extend to fighting for the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq.
Prime Minister Abbott warned that Islamic State beheadings could happen in countries like Australia if they relax their vigilance, and he urged stronger antiterrorism legislation. He said the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah has indicated support for the IS and thus that there is a risk of "increased terrorist activity in our region." Abbott also criticized "a small number of Islamic leaders, community leaders, [who] rather foolishly boycotted" recent meetings on ways to prevent disaffected young Australians from joining extremist organizations such as the Islamic State.
Defence Minister David Johnston said Australia is "not ruling out" providing backup military support for the US "as they go in and deal kinetically with this terrorist organisation." Australia is already providing two Hercules transport planes for airlifting supplies. He said: "Islamic State ... is not just a terrorist group, it is a terrorist army. They are seeking not just a terrorist enclave, but effectively a terrorist state, a terrorist nation." Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf reportedly posted a photo on social media of his seven-year-old son in Syria holding the severed head of an Islamic State victim. In June, the number of Australians fighting in Syria was estimated to be around 200, and ISIS was actively recruiting Australians.
The federal police issued arrest warrants for Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, two Sydney residents who are now fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and have threatened to kill Australian soldiers as well as all non-Muslims. Authorities estimate that 150 Australians are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq, and that about 60 of them have joined extremist groups. Attorney General George Brandis said Islamic extremism is germinating "within the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane."
Outspoken Islamist cleric Musa Cerantonio arrived in Australia after being deported from the Philippines, where he had been arrested in the company of a Filipina fashion designer in Cebu. Cerantonio, who has supported the Islamic State and claimed to be traveling to Syria to join it, was freed on arrival but his passport was canceled because he has urged Australians to travel to Syria and Iraq for jihad. Police said he will be monitored.
Australia is planning to build a new ground station near Geraldton to help the US direct unmanned drone attacks on terrorists and allow Australian and American forces to respond more quickly to crises. Lawmakers are considering giving police the authority to conduct surveillance and collect evidence in war zones such as Syria and Iraq. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in June that about 150 Australians have gone to "Syria and beyond" to fight in rebel groups. Saying the West should "just get over it," Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia spokesman Uthman Badar recently complained that Prime Minister Abbot had depicted the terror group ISIS as "evil." Popular Australian cleric Musa Cerantonio arrived in Syria to support the Islamic State.