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Jonathan Pearlman
Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

World

What draws Aussie youth to jihadist cause?

The Straits Times | Jonathan Pearlman | Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

As a young student at a private school on Australia's Gold Coast, Amira Ali spent her time much like her fellow teenagers in the coastal strip.

Described by friends as sweet and caring, she was a keen beachgoer and a frequent patron of nightclubs. She also had a coveted job at Sea World.

Her life was worlds away from the battlefields of Syria, but it was there that the 22-year-old died, alongside her young husband Yusuf Ali.

The couple were shot and killed by rival Islamist fighters in Aleppo in January, just days after arriving.

"She was beautiful," her father, Mr Mohammed Karroum, told ABC Television earlier this month.

"She came and saw me before she left… She hugged me, and she started to cry… I didn't know she was saying goodbye."

The young couple were part of the growing web of Australian jihadists who are not only travelling 13,000km to fight in Iraq and Syria, but also allegedly plotting attacks in their home country.

The Canberra authorities are closely monitoring this web, in particular the links that are being forged between a handful of senior Australian jihadist leaders, mostly based in the Middle East, and their supporters and acolytes back home.

Australia will also introduce new anti-terror laws this week to "modernise" existing legislation against extremist activity.

The biggest anti- terrorism raid in Australia last week illustrates how this network works.

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