POSTS that describe an Australian man who was reportedly killed while fighting in Syria as a martyr are “idiotic”, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.
Sydney man Ahmad Mohamad al-Ghaz’zaoui was killed around Christmas Day while fighting in Syria for the Islamic State group, the online site Syria 24 reports.
Syria 24, which states it is “pro-Assad”, says Mr al-Ghaz’zaoui had been killed after crossing over the Turkish border into Syria in late November.
In response to reports that friends and family members of Mr al-Ghaz’zaoui were calling him a martyr, Ms 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.” Syria 24 Media editor in chief Moustafa Dannoun told AAP Mr al-Ghaz’zaoui was originally from Bankstown in Sydney’s southwest. Ms Bishop says the case highlights the government’s concerns about Australian citizens heading overseas undetected and fighting with IS 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.” Jamal Daoud, from the Social Justice Network, said Mr al-Ghaz’zaoui’s death had first 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,” Mr Daoud said.
“We are trying to contact the family but they are not answering,” he said.
Keysar Trad, a spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said if the reports were true, it was “very sad and unfortunate that another young person has lost their lives overseas”.
“Hopefully the international community will do something to restore peace in the region and stop these young people going into these very dangerous spots,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Department did not confirm the death, but urged anyone fighting with IS and other terrorist 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 is putting those young Australians themselves and others in mortal danger,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It is illegal to fight in Syria. It is illegal to fight for a terrorist organisation anywhere, including in Iraq.”