Fighting terrorism overseas

International cooperation

The AFP cooperates with other Australian Government departments domestically and abroad to ensure a whole of government approach to fighting crime at its source.

For more information about the AFP’s international cooperation, see the Our work overseas page.

Australians fighting overseas

The conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other locations in the Middle East are increasingly impacting on Australia and its citizens.

The Australian Government continues to review the listing and re-listing of terrorism organisations under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). With the listing of Jabhat-al-Nusra (JN), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the Islamic State (IS), it is an offence to direct the activities of, be a member of, recruit for, train for and receive training from these organisations. The listing also makes it an offence to provide support to or associate with members of JN, ISIL or IS. These offences attract penalties of imprisonment for up to 25 years.

The AFP is aware of Australians who continue to travel to conflict locations, primarily Syria and Iraq at this time, to engage in armed conflict and is deeply concerned about the growing number of Australians with hands-on terrorist experience. This is despite the sanctions regime imposed by the Australian Government in an effort to limit the extent of the Syrian conflict.

These sanctions create offences under Australian law for:

  • engaging in fighting on either side of the conflict
  • funding, training or recruiting someone to fight in the conflict
  • supplying or funding weapons for either side of the conflict.

Significant law enforcement efforts are directed at preventative measures, however there is a growing threat posed by Australians returning from overseas with enhanced capabilities and networks. This is being addressed by the AFP, partner law enforcement and intelligence agencies. 

Returning terrorists

The Returning Terrorist Suspects Team (RTST) has been established to manage the threat of foreign fighters returning to Australia, primarily those involved in the Syria/Iraq conflict. The RTST has developed and implements traditional investigative techniques and strategies together with disruption and diversion capabilities to prevent, disrupt and prosecute.  Liaising with commonwealth agencies, the RTST coordinates state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure a whole of government approach to countering the threat posed by terrorism suspects returning from conflict zones.

Terrorism Financing Investigations Unit

The Terrorism Financing Investigations Unit (TFIU) specifically targets the financing of terrorism and terrorist organisations, both domestically and offshore. The unit comprises highly skilled investigators and financial analysts with representatives from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and has key contracts within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office. It has also established close relationships with domestic and international law enforcement partners who have responsibility for terrorist financing investigations.

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2019-20

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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