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Five Men Held in Australia Suspected of Planning Trip to Syria

  • VOA News

An officer takes pictures of a boat, which Australian police have seized in Cairns, Queensland, Australia in this still image taken from video, May 11, 2016.

An officer takes pictures of a boat, which Australian police have seized in Cairns, Queensland, Australia in this still image taken from video, May 11, 2016.

Australia says it has detained five men who they believe were planning to sail by boat to Indonesia and the Philippines en route to join radical Islamist groups fighting in Syria.

Authorities say the quintet was arrested in northern Queensland state, after towing a seven-meter boat almost 3,000 kilometers from Melbourne to Cairns, where they planned to set sail.

"They were committed, obviously very committed. The fact that they'd gone all the way from Melbourne, all the way to far North Queensland (state), indicates that these people were extremely committed in their adventure and their attempt to leave the country," said Neil Gaughan, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner.

Attorney General George Brandis said the men, ranging in age between 21 and 33, were going to travel by boat because their passports had been revoked, ruling out air travel. One of the men is believed to be Musa Cerantoni, a radical Islamic preacher and vocal supporter of the Islamic State. He was arrested in the Philippines in 2014 and deported back to Australia due to his support for the extremist group.

Canberra has launched a wide-ranging anti-terrorism campaign since late 2014. Authorities have conducted a series of counter-terrorism raids across the country, arresting at least several people on suspicion of planning domestic terrorist attacks and involvement with Islamic militants fighting in Iraq and Syria.

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