Fears as online firebrand joins ISIL cause

David Wroe [and] James Massola

A firebrand Australian Muslim preacher says he is joining the “caliphate” established by ultraviolent jihadists in the Middle East, a move that could prove a
powerful magnet to would-be extremist fighters.

Melbourne-born Musa Cerantonio, re­garded internationally as an influential cheer­leader for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, appeared on Twitter
early Wednes­day morning [2 July] to heap praise on the group and its announcement of a new Islamic state.

The former Catholic is believed to have been hiding out in the Philippines for months and is reportedly wanted by the Australian Federal Police.

Mr Cerantonio’s announcement came as Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed the government was looking at ways to make sure Australians returning from fighting with extremists in the Middle East would not pose a danger at home.

“The government is looking carefully at all existing legislation that bears upon this issue, in particular the terrorism provisions of the criminal code, to ensure there are no gaps in our capacity to keep Australia safe,” he said.

The case of Mr Cerantonio is particularly troubling because of his large online following and the risk that his presence in the Middle East would encourage
other Australians to travel to the region. On Twitter early on Wed­nesday morning, he gave enthusiastic support to the announcement by ISIL that it was
creat­ing a caliphate, or Muslim state, in the territ­ory it has seized straddling parts of Syria and Iraq. “Insha’Allah (God-willing) I will be arriv­ing in Ash-Sham (the Levant) very shortly, keep us in your du’a (prayers), getting ready to travel,” he wrote. “May Allah bless and protect our Imam, our Amir, our Khalifah, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Al-Baghdadi is the leader of ISIL, an ultra-violent al-Qaeda splinter group believed to have executed thousands of civilians in Iraq, and has declared himself the caliph of the new territory. Mr Cerantonio was described in a recent report, by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, as one of the three most influential preachers online.

One in four foreign fighters in the Middle East followed his Twitter account, while his Facebook page was the third most “liked” page among jihadists, the
study found.

Senator Brandis said he would introduce new laws to the Senate in two weeks that would reform security agencies’ powers and ensure there were no legal
loopholes in the fight against terrorism.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/fears-grow-over-pr...