Security 'breakdown' let terrorist Khaled Sharrouf escape Australia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:39am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:39am


Australian officials yesterday blamed a "fairly major breakdown" in border security for the reported escape of a convicted terrorist through Sydney Airport to join the conflict in Syria.

New South Wales state Premier Barry O'Farrell expressed concern after media reports that Khaled Sharrouf, who served almost four years in jail after pleading guilty to a 2005 conspiracy to attack Sydney, had fled.

Media reports said Sharrouf boarded a flight to Malaysia at Sydney Airport in December using his brother's passport and was now believed to be in Syria.

"I have to say, I think that immigration and the federal police and customs have been doing a magnificent job," O'Farrell said . "But I [will] look to see what caused what appears to have been a fairly major breakdown."

Customs officials would not comment in detail on the matter, saying it was "subject to ongoing investigations".

"The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service does not allow any individual to enter or exit Australia without appropriate travel documentation," a spokeswoman said.

Sharrouf, 31, had his passport confiscated and has been on international watch lists since his release from prison in 2009.

He pleaded guilty to committing acts in preparation for a terrorist act by possessing clocks and batteries to be used in a bomb blast as part of the so-called "Terror Nine" conspiracy, which resulted in Australia's largest-ever terrorism trial and the conviction of nine men.

Sharrouf served three years and 11 months in jail for his part in the plot.

The Australian government expressed concern last month at the growing numbers of its citizens travelling to Syria to fight alongside rebel groups, with several reported deaths.

Attorney-General George Brandis said he was concerned about Australians returning radicalised and with new skills to commit extremist acts after fighting in Syria, where a three-year civil war has left more than 130,000 dead.