SYDNEY - Australian authorities have arrested a 16-year-old schoolgirl on suspicion of financing the so-called Islamic State militant group. A 20-year-old man was also detained by counterterrorism police in Sydney.
The pair were charged Tuesday with sending an unspecified amount of money to Islamic State militants earlier this year. Australian police say the charges are serious and carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, although the arrests were not connected to any threat of an imminent attack.
The man, Milad Atai, previously had been arrested during the nation’s largest counterterrorism raids in September 2014.
New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said at a press conference that the schoolgirl had not been on the authorities’ radar.
"The 16-year old girl is not somebody who is well known to us," said Burns, who did not name the suspect because she is a minor. "However, it is disturbing that we are continuing to see a trend of teenage children involved in activities that they really should not be involved in all. We will be alleging, of course, that her involvement in a terrorism offense is an extremely serious matter and that will now be up for the courts to determine what happens next."
The New South Wales government said Tuesday that 14 organizations would receive a share of $6 million to counter the rise of violent extremism across Australia’s most populous state. Officials believe that early intervention will help to stop the radicalization of vulnerable young people.
Last year, a police accountant was shot dead by a 15-year-old Australian Muslim boy outside a police station in Sydney. The teenage gunman died in a gunfight with police.
Several people have been arrested as part Operation Appleby, which is investigating those suspected of plotting domestic acts of terrorism in Australia and funding extremist organizations.
Security agencies believe about 100 Australian citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamic State militants.