Australia arrests woman for entering Islamic State area in Syria

3 weeks ago 28

SYDNEY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Australian police arrested a woman on Thursday on charges of entering and remaining in areas of Syria controlled by Islamic State, just over two months after the government repatriated 17 relatives of dead or jailed members of the group from Syria.

Federal and New South Wales state police from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team arrested 31-year-old Mariam Raad after searches at Parklea, a suburb of Sydney, and the town of Young, about 270 km (170 miles) southwest of the city.

The police forces said in a statement there was no threat to the community.

"Individuals will be brought before the courts when evidence supports allegations that returned individuals have committed offences in conflict areas," Australian Federal Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Command Sandra Booth said in the statement.

Police allege Raad willingly travelled to Syria in early 2014 to join her husband, who was a member of the Islamist militant group, fully aware of his activities. Police said her husband is believed to have died in Syria in 2018.

It is an offence under Australian law to enter and remain in areas where the government has declared "a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity". The offence carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

Court officials told Reuters details of Raad's legal representative would be released shortly.

Court records listed a case with the name Mariam Raad on Thursday in Wagga Wagga, a town about 380 km (235 miles) southwest of Sydney. Police said she would appear in court via video link.

Raad returned to Australia in October last year from the Al Roj refugee camp in Syria, the police statement showed. That was the same month that 17 women and children related to dead or jailed Islamic State fighters were repatriated from the camp.

Police did not confirm if Raad was among those repatriated though media reported that she was.

Police said the investigation began while Raad was in Syria and continued after her return to Australia, with newly obtained evidence leading to the charges.

Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Robert Birsel

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