Kiwi terror suspect joins Syrian conflict

IN SYRIA: Mark John Taylor, seen here on 60 Minutes
IN SYRIA: Mark John Taylor, seen here on 60 Minutes

A New Zealand terror suspect whose travel was restricted three years ago has emerged on the Syrian battlefield - despite assurances he does not present a danger.

Mark John Taylor, also known as Muhammad Daniel, this week told Australian media that he had joined the conflict in Syria.

In 2011, Prime Minister John Key said Taylor was subject to travel restrictions after being arrested entering an al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan in 2009. Taylor later said he was seeking a Muslim wife.

"It was my mistake," he said at the time. "People might call me stupid and dumb for making that mistake, but that's my problem. It's all just basically a completely made-up story to make me look bad."

When asked about the travel restrictions during an internet chat this week, he said: "NZ government bluffing. They never told me until it got to the media."

After Taylor returned to New Zealand in 2011, Key said he could not go into details. "All I can say is he's known to us. He's someone that has quite a number of restrictions on him for very good reason . . . I know him and his name very well."

When asked if New Zealanders had anything to fear from Taylor, Key said: "I don't believe so, no."

Taylor was among 23 Australian-based people of security interest listed in a secret diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The US placed him on a list of passengers who must undergo strict security screening before flying.

It was believed Taylor entered Syria from Turkey on June 14 and was now based in Aleppo, where he was a member of al Qaeda in Syria - known as Jabhat al-Nusra. He had flown from Jakarta, and had been living in Indonesia.

Taylor said a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen, Muslim bin John, tried to recruit him into al Qaeda five years ago. "He offered me to join them [al Qaeda] back in 2009. But not in Yemen . . . a third country, I wasn't told where."

Muslim bin John, also known as Daryl Jones, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in November, along with Australian Christopher Havard.

Taylor said bin John was "a good man with . . . good manners".

A spokeswoman said Key was on leave and unable to comment.