NZ's 'jihadi brides' left from Australia

5:33 pm on 16 March 2016

None of the so-called "jihadi brides" who became headline news last year actually left from New Zealand, the Security Intelligence Service says.

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Photo: 123rf

Official papers said all were New Zealand citizens who were living in Australia, and that they left from there.

Last December SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge told Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee there was a developing trend of New Zealand women travelling to ISIS-controlled areas.

"Something that has changed over the last year is the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria, which is something we haven't seen previously or been aware of," she told MPs.

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

Rebecca Kitteridge, Director of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In response to an Official Information Act request, SIS, the domestic spy agency, said the women concerned "did not leave New Zealand.

"They were New Zealand citizens domiciled in Australia and they left from there."

Labour leader Andrew Little, who sits on the committee, said his impression was that these were people who were resident in New Zealand and had left from here.

The issue was also first raised in the context of the risk of other New Zealanders becoming jihadi brides, he said.

"The threat of people here being kind of seduced into the apparent glamour of going off and fighting jihad in Syria and wherever else and that impressionable people might think it's an attractive thing to do.

"That's what I recall the discussion being and therefore this was a security concern that our security agencies had to be across."

The Minister in Charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, denied the government deliberately created the wrong impression.

"If you go back to the statements that were made there were no implications or 'winks and nods' that they were not resident in New Zealand."

Andrew Little during caucus run 1.03.16

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Little said the government did nothing to correct the impression the women were leaving from New Zealand.

"If the government knew at that time, or shortly after, that none of these people were resident in New Zealand, before they'd gone to Syria, then they have deliberately and calculatedly created an impression that simply wasn't correct, that is there was a security risk that simply didn't exist.

Mr Little's view was rejected by Mr Finlayson.

"That's simply mistaken, it's wrong, no I don't think that at all."

The SIS refused to provide any further information about the number of women, whether they were married before they left Australia and how many had returned to New Zealand and how many may have been on the government's watch-list, citing national security and defence and the maintenance of the law.

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