CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Five former dual nationals have been stripped of their Australian citizenship due to their involvement with the Islamic State group overseas, a government minister said Thursday.
A total of six people have now lost their Australian citizenship since the law was changed in 2015 to enable dual nationals to lose their citizenship rights for actions contrary to their allegiance to Australia, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said.
"I can confirm that five more individuals have ceased to be Australian citizens because of their involvement with Islamic State offshore," Dutton said in a statement.
Dutton did not identify the five. The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney said they were three men and two women who had flown to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State group fighters.
It is not clear when they traveled to the Middle East and when they lost their citizenship.
Australia Broadcasting Corp. said they were aged in their 20s and 30s and might not be aware that they were no longer Australian. Intelligence agencies began investigating them last year, the ABC said.
"We've arrived at a position now where it's clear through their own conduct these people have renounced their Australian citizenship. They don't deserve to be Australian citizens and in our judgment they would pose a great threat if they were to return to Australia," Dutton told ABC.
The first person to lose Australian citizenship under the law was Sydney-born convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf. Sharrouf, 36, slipped out of Australia in 2013 on his brother's passport because his own had been canceled because of his conviction for his part in a thwarted terrorist attack plot. He was left with Lebanese citizenship after his Australian citizenship was canceled in January last year.
Sharrouf horrified the world in 2014 when he posted on social media a photograph of his young son clutching the severed head of a Syrian soldier.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described that image as "one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed."
Under section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act, a dual national's Australian citizenship automatically ceases if they act contrary to their allegiance to Australia by engaging in terrorism-related conduct.
This includes those who fight for or who are in the service of a declared terrorist organization overseas. The Islamic State group was declared a terrorist organization for these purposes since May 2016.
"It is opposed to Australia, its people and its democratic rights and privileges," Dutton said in a statement.
"The government is determined to deal with foreign terrorist fighters as far from our shores as possible," he added.