How AFP let a terrorist off the leash

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 08 Desember 2014 | 20.01

Australian fugitive terrorist Khaled Sharrouf. Source: Supplied

THE Australian Federal Police drafted a control order for Australia's most wanted terrorist, Khaled Sharrouf, but decided against pursuing it before he illegally left Australia on his brother's passport.

Security officials chose not to apply to the courts for an order restricting Sharrouf's movements after legal advice suggested it may be viewed as double punishment, due to his previous four-year prison term for terrorism offences and ­because it could hinder an ­ongoing investigation.

It is understood the AFP, while considering the control order, late last year had Sharrouf under surveillance.

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On November 9, 2013, counter-terrorism officers witnessed Sharrouf holding an illegal firearm, with a gang of men in remote bushland near Lithgow in New South Wales.

That was less than a month before he left Australia to join Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Despite having the power to detain and charge him, the AFP chose for "operational reasons" to allow him to remain free as it continued to build a case and collect information about his group.

On December 6, Sharrouf, 33, flew out from Sydney Airport despite being on a terror watch list and Customs alert.

Police realised their target had slipped out of the country about 12 days later.

A photo posted online by Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf in May. Source: Supplied

Khaled Sharrouf poses with the decapitated head of a slain Syrian soldier. Source: News Corp Australia

The AFP declined to comment on any control order considered against Sharrouf.

However, an AFP spokeswoman said: "Khaled Sharrouf is the subject of a first-instance arrest warrant for terrorism related offences which would result in his arrest if he were to return to Australia."

Counter-terrorism national manager Neil Gaughan last month said orders were considered for five people in the past 20 months.

Sharrouf, a former building industry standover man with assessed schizophrenia, was convicted of terrorism preparation offences during the AFP's Operation Pendennis in 2005.

He admitted batteries and clocks he possessed were to carry out an attack.

ABC Reporter Marian Wilkinson investigates the extraordinary life of Khaled Sharrouf, from petty criminal and underworld heavy to barbaric terrorist fighter.

Sharrouf received worldwide condemnation in September when he posted a picture of his seven-year-old son holding a severed head in Syria.

The father of five from Punchbowl in Sydney is accused of shooting unarmed prisoners in Iraq and has placed shocking photos on Twitter of executed soldiers.

He is thought to be in Syria with Australian terrorist Mohamed Elomar.

The pair posted photos of themselves travelling in a late-model white BMW.

In a bid to avoid similar bungles, Federal Parliament has passed changes to security laws which streamline the AFP's ability to seek control orders for people suspected of supporting foreign fighters.

The bolstered powers extend orders to specifically prevent support or facilitation of terrorism or hostile activity in a foreign country.

mark.dunn@news.com.au

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