I’ve had a new article published on ASPI’s blog The Strategist.
It’s about Australians fighting in the Syrian conflict, this time looking at the potential impact of the intra-jihadist infighting. The post goes into detail about the growing fratricidal conflict, with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham on one side and al-Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra on the other, and some of the implications for Australia.
It’s also time for a brief update on the involvement of Australians in the Syrian insurgency.
There have now been ten reported deaths of Australians in the conflict: Mustapha al-Mazjoub, Roger Abas, Marwan al-Kassab, Sammy Salma, Yusuf Toprakkaya, “Abu Asma al-Australi”, Yusuf Ali, Amira Ali, Caner Temel, and Ahmad Moussali. For many of these cases there have been strong indications that they were fighting with jihadist groups. These indications include interviews with those who fought beside them, YouTube clips of them firing weapons or preparing explosives, or martyrdom notices and videos officially released by organisations like Jabhat al-Nusra. However, for several of the cases the available information is more ambiguous.
As I note in the piece, there have been plenty of state counter-measures. For example, on December 2013 two men were arrested in Sydney and charged under the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978. Police allege that one man, Hamdi Alqudsi, had recruited at least six fighters (including two of those killed, Yusuf Ali and Caner Temel). They allege the other arrested man, Amin Iman Mohammed, was preparing to fight. I have not come across a date for when they’ll appear in court.
Another tactic has been ASIO’s confiscation of passports, which has increased, by a lot. ASIO had used this power 18 times from mid-2012 to mid-2013, compared to around 50 times in the preceding decade. It was recently reported that 33 passports had been cancelled over the past nine months, so the number would now be over 100.
Authorities have also been using bank account restrictions and coercive questioning, as well as public messaging and community engagement initiatives.
However, the situation in Syria itself is changing, with conflict breaking out between the competing jihadist groups, which is playing out in Australia’s small jihadist scene. If you would like to know more about that, please read the article.