Australian police announced on Friday that it charged two men with allegedly running a “sophisticated terrorist network”, which helped locals to travel to Syria to join violent Islamic extremist groups.
The men, aged 34 and 31, were arrested in coordinated moves in the states of Queensland and Victoria on Thursday, and charged with crimes related to entering a foreign state with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.
As well as facilitating others to travel overseas, the 34-year-old was accused of having gone to Syria himself to engage in hostile activities, an offence which carries a potential 20 years jail time.
“We will be alleging that he entered Syria, he fought alongside terrorist organizations, and he did that against the Syrian government,” Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commander Stephen Dametto told reporters on Friday.
Police allege the men played senior roles in establishing networks in Australia, Turkey and Syria which were used by Australian foreign terrorist fighters to enter Syria between 2012 and 2014.
Once there, the Australian fighters allegedly joined terrorist organisations including Jabhat al-Nusra, a violent extremist group that engaged in hostilities with Syrian government forces.
US government agencies had also previously flagged the 31-year-old for sending material support to the Al Qaeda.
Searches of properties tied to the men on Thursday uncovered A$80,000 ($60,700) in cash along with high-value gemstones.
“The decision to arrest these men yesterday was made by the Queensland joint counter-terrorism team when we thought we had enough evidence to charge these individuals,” Dametto said.
Dametto also stressed it was not the ideology or background of individuals which the AFP targeted, but the criminality of their actions.