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Prepare for Aussie airport crackdown after terrorist flees

February 11, 2014 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A security crackdown at Australian airports is on the cards after embarrassing revelations at the weekend that a convicted terrorist had used his brother’s passport to fool Customs officers at Sydney airport and board a flight for Syria.

According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Khaled Sharrouf was not deterred by the fact he had no passport, was on airport watchlists around Australia and was being kept under 24-hour surveillance as part of a counter-terror investigation. Sharrouf just strolled onto a flight to Kuala Lumpur at Sydney Airport. He has since disappeared, the paper reported. itcmchina_en_250x250_animated

That’s despite Australian passports being proclaimed as among the world’s most secure, with foolproof biometric identity checks.

Sharrouf is one of the “terror nine” arrested in the landmark Operation Pendennis investigation in 2005 which thwarted a planned attack on an unspecified target in Sydney, the Telegraph said.

Authorities now suspect Sharrouf is in Syria, along with up to 120 other Australians reported to be fighting in the country’s civil war.

The news comes just days after Australian Attorney General George Brandis warned that Australian citizens gaining terrorist experience in the Syrian conflict increased the threat of a terrorist attack on Australian soil.

Brandis told the inaugural Interpol Global Security and Counter Terrorism Convention in Sydney that Australian fighters returning from Syria could be radicalised and have obtained the deadly skills needed to carry out a terror attack in this country. Other countries, including the US and Sweden have issued similar warnings to their own citizens.

The number of Australians killed in Syria’s civil war is said to be at least 15, double the number previously reported, according to a prominent member of Australia’s Syrian community quoted by SBS News.

Australian authorities can be expected to tighten airport security, not just to prevent known terror suspects like Sharrouf leaving to fight abroad, but to prevent their returning. Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has already signalled that the Australian government could seek to strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals fighting in Syria, along the lines of powers being exercised in the UK.

Technically, stripping Australian citizenship rights from such people could prevent their re-entering Australia. Unless, perhaps, they used their brother’s passport.

The big challenge for Australian airports is to stop the transit of would-be terrorists without delaying or disrupting the other 99.9% of air travellers who are just going about their legitimate business, visiting friends or relatives, or taking a well-earned holiday.

Written by : Peter Needham

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