PM reports at least 60 Australians fighting in Syria, Iraq

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott says the rise of violent extremism highlights the fact that Australia was not isolated from potential threats especially from home-grown fanatics.

Mr Abbott said at least 60 Australians are known to be fighting with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and about 100 Australians are known to be funding or facilitating these groups.

It is understood known fighters hail from News South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Mr Abbott said Australians who head overseas and take up arms in either Iraq or Syria pose a very real risk to the country and our way of life.

"We have all seen the horrific images: the beheadings, the crucifixions and the mass executions," he said.

"So the threat to our country from extremists is real and it is growing.

Mr Abbott said the government had committed an additional $630 million over four years towards counter-terrorism measures.

"More resources are going to the Australian Federal Police, to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Office of National Assessments and the Customs and Border Protection Service," he said.

"Biometric screening is being installed at all our international airports.

"Border force counter-terrorism units are already working at Sydney and Melbourne Airports and will soon be rolled out at other international airports."

Mr Abbott said new national security laws would strengthen the ability to arrest and jail returning foreign fighters and prevent extremists from departing Australia.

"We are strengthening our community engagement programmes to prevent young Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups," he said.

"I want to stress that these efforts are not directed against any particular community or religion . . . they are against terrorists and potential terrorists."

Opposition Foreign Affairs Minister Tanya Plibersek said the government had been briefing them on matters on national security and Labor was supportive of recent measures.


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