Australian government must prepare for return of Aussie IS jihadists: terror experts

Canberra, Sep 14 (IANS) Australian security experts fear the inevitable fall of Islamic State (IS) could result in the attempted return of up to 100 Australian jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Terror experts believe Australian jihadists could use the combat skills acquired overseas to plot terrorist activities back on home soil, and with coalition gaining ground against IS, the caliphate could experience a mass exodus of foreign fighters if they feel they are losing the battle, Xinhua news agency reported.

With air strikes resulting in massive territory losses for the IS in the Middle East, Rodger Shanahan from the Lowy Institute of Foreign Policy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that Australian counter-terror and immigration bodies need to be aware of foreign fighters attempting to return “home”.

“Some of them will be seeking to come back to Australia,” Shanahan said on Wednesday.

“What their intent when they come back to Australia is, that’s going to be another thing that’s going to exercise the minds of the security agencies.”

Shanahan said it would be particularly dangerous if these jihadists were able to find a way back into Australia, as the skills they have acquired over time in the Middle East could be used against Australian citizens and landmarks.

“(The jihadists have acquired) the ability to plan, an awareness of operational security — so it makes them harder to track — and other more practical issues like bomb-making skills, an awareness of how you conduct planning and execution of an attack,” Shanahan said.

“They have a range of skill sets that some of the groups that we’ve seen previously in the region overseas and some of the people in Australia have lacked to date.”

Shanahan and the Lowy Institute implored the government to work closely with governments in the region — such as Turkey — to keep an eye on the possible return of foreign fighters.

Under Australian law passed earlier in 2016, dual national Australians who travel to the Middle East to take part in conflicts have their Australian passports cancelled, while Australian citizens who join the fight face charges related to terrorism.

–IANS

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