Two Men Arrested in Sydney for Attempting to Help Fighters in Syria

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By Sunny Peter | December 3, 2013 3:24 PM EST

The police in Sydney arrested two men on Tuesday for their attempt to help fighters in the Syrian Civil war. A 39-year-old has been charged for being "actively involved in recruiting" Australian men and facilitating their travel to Syria; a 23-year-old was arrested for attempting to travel to Syria for participation in the ongoing civil war.

In arrests carried out almost simultaneously on Tuesday, police nabbed Hamdi Alqudsi, 39, from his St Helen's Park residence, and a 23-year-old man in Lidcombe who was reportedly recruited by Mr Alqudsi for fighting in Syria. The men have been charged under the Crimes Act (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) for their involvement in the Syrian conflict. If found guilty the men face imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Interestingly, the Daily Telegraph reports that Mr Alqudsi is husband of controversial Muslim woman Carnita Matthews-- infamous for her run-in with the police for her refusal to remove her burqa during a random breath test, two years ago.

Mr Alqudsi has been charged for recruiting six men, including the 23-year-old, and facilitating their travel to Syria to fight for terrorist organisations like Jabhat Al Nusra and other al-Qaeda affiliates. The whereabouts of the other five are not yet known.

Intelligence reports say there are about 100 Australians fighting in the Syrian civil war. However, the two arrests made on Tuesday are the first ones to occur in Australia.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner of National Security Peter Drennan told reporters on Tuesday, that the police has information of similar networks operating in the country, and they have been monitoring their operations.

However, Mr Drennan said that it was almost impossible to stop Australians from travelling abroad and neither was it possible to obtain intelligence and evidence in a very "fluid" situation like Syria, so as to charge the men when they return home.

"I realise that the situation in Syria is an important issue for many people in our community but there is no justification for violence," he said.

"The violent killing of people should not be glorified or justified for any reason," Mr Drennan added.

Speaking to reporters, NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said the alleged offences were "extremely serious criminal activity".

She pointed out that those returning from the Syrian conflict carried a significant risk for the country as they will return with the knowledge skills and training from terrorist organisations.

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