“[Australian Security Intelligence Organization] ASIO believes there are about 60 or so Australians fighting with the two principal extremist al-Qaeda derivatives, Jahabat-al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq,” Australia’s Intelligence Chief David Irvine said on Wednesday.
“We believe 15 Australians have already been killed in the current conflict,” he added, according to Anadolu Agency (AA) reports asquoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA).
The Australian intelligence chief added that over 100 people in Australia are “actively supporting” the group in Syria and Iraq by recruiting new militants and providing funds and equipment for them.
He noted that the number of the citizens posing a potential security threat to the country has increased substantially.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also announced plans to fight the growing threat of homegrown terrorists fighting alongside the ISIL militants.
An image of what is believed to be the young son of an Australian man holding a decapitated head in Syria was posted on and later removed from Twitter, sending shockwaves through Australia.
The picture was posted on the account of Khaled Sharrouf, an Australian man who fled to Syria last year and is now an ISIL militant.
The ISIL, which controls parts of Syria, sent its militants into neighboring Iraq in June and quickly seized large swathes of territory straddling the border between the two countries.
Reports say that thousands of Westerners have joined terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq over the past few years.
Among the Western countries France has the highest rank in this regard as 900 of its citizens are fighting in Middle East battles.
As many as 400 Britons are also believed to have gone to Syria over the last two years.
Citizens from other Western countries including Italy and Scotland have also joined terrorist groups in the Middle East. (T/P003/R04)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)