COUNTER-terrorism officers intercepted 11 suspected terrorists at Melbourne and Sydney airports in less than a month in a multi-agency security crackdown.
Officers who searched the grounded suspects found images of beheadings and other violent Islamist propaganda on electronic devices and seized tens of thousands of dollars in undeclared cash allegedly being smuggled out of the country.
A twelfth man, 19-year-old Ahmad Saiyer Naizmand, of NSW, allegedly flew out of Sydney on his brother’s passport before Australian officers raised the alarm and had United Arab Emirates authorities deport him back.
MIDDLE EAST STRIKE ALERT
The revelations came as Australia’s Super Hornet fighter jets were last night in the skies above Iraq waiting for the final go-ahead to launch air strikes against Islamic State, and 200 special forces personnel were also poised to join the Iraqi security forces in a training and advisory role.
ONE suspect’s luggage was deemed “inconsistent with his stated planned travel movements’’, and he missed his flight after he was searched.
SIX people were caught with violent or objectionable material. Of them, two were issued with infringement notices and three had their electronic devices seized.
ONE man was refused entry to Australia after arriving on a flight to Melbourne from Malaysia and found to have “visa inconsistencies’’.
THREE of the suspects copped infringement notices.
OTHERS were caught committing visa and passport fraud.
A look at recent airport interceptions.
Customs and Border Protection said the Australian Government had changed the instruction to its officers from “facilitation as a priority to security as a priority’’.
“That means that on occasion, flights will be held, people and baggage will have to be unloaded … but this is important for our national security,’’ a spokesman said.
The terror suspects were intercepted by Customs and Border Protection, the AFP or the new Counter-Terrorism Units.
The CTU came into force in late August less than nine months after Sydney man Khaled Sharrouf escaped Sydney Airport in December on his brother’s passport to fight for Islamic State in Syria.
Sharrouf caused international outrage by making his seven-year-old Australian-raised son, with him in Syria, pose for photographs holding a severed head.
In addition to the 11 main intercepted suspects, a further six people were stopped and searched by authorities, missing their flights, between August 9 and September 1 at Australia’s largest two airports.
A currency detector dog sniffed out one man trying to leave Melbourne Airport on August 31 without declaring he was carrying more than $10,000. He was also found to be in possession of extremist propaganda images.
In one incident at Melbourne Airport on August 27, five people, thought to be members of the same extended family, were offloaded from a flight and searched.
On the same day at Melbourne, a man was pulled from another flight, searched, and was found to be in possession of more than $30,000 in undeclared currency and violent propaganda images.
One man caught in September was found not to have Islamist propaganda, but was instead in possession of child abuse images.