24 Jan 2015

IS recruiting teenagers says Australian govt

8:52 pm on 24 January 2015

The Australian government says it is worried an increasing number of Australian teenagers and young women are travelling to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State.

Australian attorney-general George Brandis

Australian attorney-general George Brandis Photo: AAP

Attorney-General George Brandis said the total number of Australians thought to be involved in the conflict was now around 90, up from roughly 75 late last year, the ABC reported.

Senator Brandis said intelligence agencies had noticed the "disturbing" demographic shift in the last six months.

"More and more very young people are ... being enticed and ensnared here in Australia with the false glamour of participating in the civil war on behalf of ISIL, or daesh," he said.

"The Australian people should be aware that this is a real and growing problem."

Senator Brandis said that despite earlier concerns that more young men were travelling to fight overseas, the figures now showed more young women were joining the terrorist group.

"At an earlier time, perhaps even six months ago, we were concerned almost entirely about young men," he said.

"But a more recent estimate by the national security agencies suggests that a growing number of young women are travelling to participate in that fighting as well."

Senator Brandis last year warned that Australians fighting for IS were being used as "cannon fodder".

The Government also introduced a raft of legislation aimed at stopping would-be jihadists from travelling to the Middle East, including the Foreign Fighters Bill, which made it illegal to travel to areas declared as terrorist zones without a specific humanitarian or family purpose.

Australians found to be illegally visiting the region could face up to 10 years in prison.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop used provisions under the bill to declare it an offence for Australians to visit the Al-Raqqa province in Syria without a legitimate reason.

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