Julie Bishop says case of Ahmad Mohamad al-Ghaz’zaoui highlights government concerns about citizens heading overseas undetected and fighting with Isis
A Sydney man has reportedly been killed while fighting in Syria in November.
Ahmad Mohamad al-Ghaz’zaoui was named on the online social networking site Syria 24 over the weekend as having been killed while fighting for Islamic State.
Moustafa Dannoun, editor-in-chief of Syria 24 Media, which describes itself as “pro-Assad”, said on Tuesday his sources had confirmed al-Ghaz’zaoui was killed after arriving in Syria from Turkey late last month.
He said the man was originally from Bankstown, in Sydney’s south-west.
Jamal Daoud, from the Social Justice Network in Sydney, said al-Ghaz’zaoui’s death had been announced by a close cousin, but the family’s online tributes to him were removed on Tuesday morning, following a report in the Daily Telegraph.
“He would have been killed on the 25th or 26th of December,” Daoud said. “We are trying to contact the family but they are not answering.”
Daoud said Syria 24 was an online site run by volunteers who had “some correspondents in Syria” and links within the community.
Al-Ghaz’zaoui, also spelt al-Ghazzawi, was born in Australia, but his family was from a small village in Lebanon, Daoud believed.
In response to reports that friends and family members of al-Ghaz’zaoui were calling him a martyr in social media posts, the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said: “If people want to put stupid or idiotic things on Facebook, then that’s not an offence in itself.
“But if people are inciting or advocating or promoting terrorism under the new laws that this government has introduced, then that can be an offence.”
Bishop said the case highlighted the government’s concerns about Australian citizens heading overseas undetected and fighting with Isis in Syria and Iraq.
“The fact that some of these people are leaving Australia and are not even under surveillance or of interest to our security agencies is, of course, deeply concerning,” she said in Adelaide on Tuesday.
“We know that if people return to Australia after becoming hardened or experienced terrorists there is a possibility that they would seek to carry out terrorist activities here in Australia.”
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Department did not confirm the reports of his death, but urged anyone fighting with Isis or other terrorists groups to end their association and leave the conflict zone.
“We know there are some young Australians who think they’ve made the right choice in becoming involved in overseas conflicts, but that choice only adds to the suffering in Syria and Iraq and it’s putting those young Australians themselves and others in mortal danger,” the department said on Tuesday.
“Legislation recently passed by the parliament seeks to ensure that as far as humanly possible, if you leave this country to engage in terrorism and you come back to this country, you will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed, or face other measures such as control orders.
“It is illegal to fight in Syria. It is illegal to fight for a terrorist organisation anywhere, including in Iraq.”