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Family links strong in Australian terror cells

Sydney, Mon, 06 Feb 2012 ANI

Sydney, Feb.6 (ANI): Family connections and friendships are at the core of the terrorist networks active in Australia over the past 12 years, a Monash University researcher has found.


Most of the 57 people identified were recruited through close contact with friends or relatives involved in extremist groups.


According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Shandon Harris-Hogan drew maps of the links between violent jihadists in Australia, including people deported on security grounds, or reported missing or dead while engaged in terrorist activities overseas.


The pattern he found is in keeping with studies of Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Turkish terrorists, which revealed that about one in five involved individuals were direct kin, while seven in 10 were close friends as youths.


"You keep getting the same names. A lot have intermarried into each other's families and have been convicted or involved in the same plots together," he said.


Harris-Hogan, who had access to transcripts of police recordings from Operation Pendennis, Australia's biggest terrorism investigation, found within the 15-member Melbourne cell led by Abdul Nacer Benbrika, now in jail, was a clique that included brothers, a cousin and a close childhood friend of Fadl Sayadi, a Benbrika lieutenant.


Moustafa Cheikho, from the Sydney cell, and his uncle, Khaled Cheikho, trained with Laksha e-Taiba in Pakistan. Khaled Cheikho was married to a relative of the terrorist associate Rabiyah Hutchinson.


While there are some connections to individuals in family groups, the rest of those groups have no involvement and none is suggested.


Of the 57 jihadists whose background he has studied, 24 trained in camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia or the Philippines.


Since a US clampdown on militia camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the focus had shifted to Lebanon and Somalia, he found.


His colleague at the university's global terrorism research centre, Andrew Zammit, has found that six in 10 of those who have faced terrorism charges in Australia have been Muslims of Lebanese descent, a phenomenon unique to this country. (ANI)


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