(Reuters) – Australian police on Wednesday arrested two men suspected of helping Australian citizens fight alongside militants in Syria on terrorism-related charges, officials said, after the intelligence chief warned of mounting threats.
The two, aged 21 and 31, were arrested following a 12-month investigation that agents said revealed their support for an al Qaeda-backed militant group, the Nusra Front, which seized 45 U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights two weeks ago.
At least 180 federal and state police raided nine properties during the operation in and around suburban Brisbane, which is set to host the G20 summit in November, police said.
“I would like to stress there is no information or intelligence available to police or security agencies at this time to indicate that these males were involved in terrorism attack planning in Australia,” federal police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters.
Australia has raised the alarm about the number of its citizens believed to be fighting overseas, including a suicide bomber who killed three people in Baghdad in July and two men shown in images on social media holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
On Tuesday the head of Australia’s national security agency said he was “very seriously” considering raising the country’s terrorism alert level to “high” over Australians’ involvement in militant groups and the spiralling conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
David Irvine, the outgoing head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, said the number of Australians returning from fighting with Islamic State and other radical groups posed a growing risk.