Australian charged with trying to join Kurds in Iraq

Australian charged with trying to join Kurds in Iraq
PHOTO: Reuters

MELBOURNE - A Melbourne man has been charged with attempting to leave for Iraq to fight with Kurdish forces against the Islamic State group, just weeks after another Australian was killed during a similar venture.

Jamie Williams, 28, is accused of preparing to enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in hostile activities - which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

His court appearance Tuesday came just two days after a funeral in Melbourne for Reece Harding, 23, who died this month in Syria after stepping on a landmine while fighting the militant group alongside Kurds.

Williams was charged late Monday, seven months after he was stopped by customs officers at Melbourne airport as he tried to board a flight to Qatar, after being identified as a potential foreign fighter for Kurdish-aligned forces.

"At the time of the alleged departure various items of military-style equipment and clothing were located in his luggage," the Australian Federal Police and the Immigration Department said in a statement.

Williams, who fronted a brief hearing reportedly wearing a black T-shirt with the words "war dog" printed on it, did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody until October.

Federal police Assistant Commissioner for Counter Terrorism Neil Gaughan said planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to support the deadly conflict was "illegal and highly dangerous", regardless of which side people were on.

"There have been numerous warnings against participating in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq," he said.

"While this individual did not actually travel, people need to be aware that actively planning and undertaking preparations to travel to the conflict area still constitutes a criminal offence." Canberra's rhetoric on the issue has been stepped up in recent months as fears grow about the number of Australians fighting with jihadist groups and concern about the threat at home from radicalised individuals.

About 120 Australians are believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria, the vast majority with militant groups. At least 30 have been killed, according to the government.

On Monday, an Australian nurse who allegedly joined Islamic State in Syria was remanded in custody in Melbourne on terror charges relating to carrying out guard duty and reconnaissance for them.

Adam Brookman is accused of knowingly providing support to IS between April 2010 and August 2014 to help "prepare or foster" a terrorist act.

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