Two teenage brothers have been prevented from leaving Australia after officials became suspicious they were planning to join the "Islamic State." The pair had return tickets to an unspecified destination in the Mideast.
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday that the two boys, aged 16 and 17, were believed to be on their way to join the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) and take part in fighting.
Dutton said that a search of the boys' luggage had given cause for concern, although he would not specify what was found. The search at Sydney Airport led to the pair's case being referred to the Customs and Terrorism Unit.
"What we have here are two teenagers who have been intercepted on their way to a potentially very dangerous situation," Dutton said.
"These two young men... are kids, not killers, and they shouldn't be allowed to go to a foreign land to fight and to come back to our shores eventually more radicalized," Dutton told reporters.
"In some cases, these young people who are going off to fight in areas like Syria will be killed themselves and that's a tragedy for their families, for their communities, and for our country."
According to Dutton, the brothers had taken "a very radical decision, ultimately without the knowledge of their parents."
"Their parents, as I understand it, were as shocked as any of us would be," he added.
According to the Australian Federal Police, the pair had been arrested under suspicion of attempting to prepare for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities."
A spokeswoman said the brothers were returned to their parents, but that an investigation was ongoing.
Canberra steps up security
Officials did not say that the pair had been directly linked with IS. Some 100 Australians are believed to be fighting with IS and other groups in Iraq and Syria.
Australia announced on Tuesday that it would send a further 300 soldiers to help join a joint mission with New Zealand training local forces in the fight against IS.
Australia has ramped up domestic security measures - including the withdrawal of Australian passports for dual nationality individuals - with the government pointing to a perceived heightened threat of "homegrown" IS extremists.
On Saturday, British police defended their actions after complaints they had failed to pass on important information that it is claimed would have stopped three teenage girls from London apparently traveling to Syria.
Also on Saturday, a Moroccan woman was arrested at a Spanish airport on suspicion of trying to recruit European and North African women to join IS.
rc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)