Australia blocks travel for 200 suspected militants

A handout image released by Sydney Airport on 08 March 2015 shows CCTV vision of two teenage brothers (C, yellow and black shirts) suspected of trying to fly to the Middle East to fight, at Sydney Airport, Australia, 6 March 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Two Australian teens were stopped at Sydney Airport on 6 March suspected of trying to join IS

Australian police have stopped more than 200 people suspected of trying to join terror groups from leaving the country since August, say officials.

Among them was a 17-year-old stopped at Sydney airport a fortnight ago, said Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr Dutton said there was a "growing threat" from Australians attempting to join groups like Islamic State (IS).

Special anti-terror teams were installed in Australia's eight international airports in August.

The teenager, who was on his way to the conflict in the Middle East, was returned to the custody of his parents while investigations continued, said Mr Dutton.

The interception came about a week after two Sydney brothers, aged 16 and 17, were stopped at the same airport on suspicion of attempting to join IS.

The brothers, who have not been named, were also returned to their parents.

According to Australian media reports, the two students have been allowed to resume their studies at a prestigious Sydney high school, despite concerns being raised by some parents of other students at the school.

'Trophy paraded online'

Australia's anti-terrorism units have spoken to 85,000 people at airports around the country since August, said Mr Dutton.

Australia estimates that about 90 of its citizens have already travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight with IS and 20 have been killed in the conflict.

Image copyright Unknown
Image caption Bilardi (centre) converted to Islam before he joined the IS

There are unconfirmed reports that Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi carried out a suicide attack in Syria earlier this month after joining IS.

His father, John Bilardi, said in an interview with Australia's 60 Minutes, that his son was a "loner" who had a "death wish" and had been treated as a "prize" by IS.

"He was a trophy that they paraded online. They gloated about how they had recruited this young boy who didn't even have a Muslim background," said Mr Bilardi.

It is a criminal offence in Australia for citizens to set foot in the IS strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa without a legitimate reason such as a visit to family.

Any Australian who travels to the cities could face 10 years in prison.

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