Concern over Kiwi jihadists
Would-be jihadists are being monitored by the nation’s spooks over plans to carry out Islamic State-style terror attacks on New Zealand soil.
Security Intelligence Service boss Rebecca Kitteridge has spoken publicly about the threat amid rising global fears of lone wolf attacks such as the one on the Canadian Parliament.
In a rare interview, Kitteridge said Islamic State propaganda material telling followers ‘‘every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader and kill him’’ bought the threat closer to home than Kiwis thought.
‘‘There are people who read these sorts of things, there are people who advocate it, there are people who fund it, there are people who facilitate it, so there is a range of people who we are concerned about here,’’ she said.
An alleged Islamic State terror plot to kidnap and behead Australians was revealed yesterday, with a United States senator claiming would-be IS recruits had been told to stay home and ‘‘kill an Australian’’ rather than go to Syria to fight.
Fairfax has been told New Zealand officials are aware of the same instructions being given to would-be Kiwi jihadists.
It is a chilling new take on the foreign fighter threat, which Prime Minister John Key will outline in a speech on Wednesday.
Key is expected to detail the number of Kiwis who have signed up to IS or tried to get to Syria to fight. The Government is worried not just by the number of would-be jihadists seeking to make their way to Syria, but the possible return of radicalised fighters.
Fairfax has been told of attempts by self-proclaimed jihadist Mark Taylor, also known as Abu Abdul Rahman, to have his New Zealand passport reissued after burning it at the Syrian border.
Taylor, who has been fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria, was recruited by dual Australian-New Zealand citizen Daryl Jones, also known as Muslim bin John, who was killed in Yemen by a US drone last year.
New Zealand has been monitoring Taylor since his arrest in Pakistan in 2009 when trying to get access to an Al Qaeda stronghold.
He was released after intervention by New Zealand’s honorary consul and deported to Sydney, where his passport was revoked in January 2010.
Taylor was detained by Australian authorities as an unlawful resident awaiting removal to New Zealand, but later resurfaced in Jakarta, where he sought advice from the New Zealand embassy on a marriage certificate.
He told authorities there he had no intention of returning to New Zealand, and was not heard from again till he surfaced in Yemen this year.
He tore up his passport then contacted New Zealand officials again a few months later about getting a new one. It is understood, however, that no application has been lodged.
Sources say he may be refused a new passport even if he does apply. It is not clear how he was able to travel on his old passport after having it revoked.
An Indonesian woman claiming to be his wife says Taylor can’t afford the cost of a new passport and ‘‘criminals’’ in Yemen took it from him.
The wife, who does not want to be named, denies Taylor is a terrorist and says he is being used by others.
‘‘Mark John Taylor is not a terrorist. He is a warm-hearted person ... he’s not crazy, he’s not an idiot. He’s a normal man.’’
She has not heard from Taylor for a month, and Fairfax has been told by a friend that the only time he can contact the outside world is when he is hiding in the toilet.
Taylor has posted YouTube videos proclaiming he is on a jihad ‘‘for Allah and his messenger’’. He poses with guns and knifes in pictures posted on social media.
Blair ‘‘Bilal’’ Morpeth, who says he met Taylor when they both attended a Sydney mosque in 2003, describes him as undergoing a dramatic transformation.
‘‘He was a different person then ... he was quite a normal sort of guy trying to get on with his job. Now he has these unusual beliefs and these delusions of grandeur ... his perception of the world is so distorted.’’
Morpeth says Taylor harbours ‘‘unwarranted’’ hatred toward the New Zealand government, which he said had only ever tried to support him.
He also tried to help Taylor, including finding him a wife, but had grown increasingly concerned.
‘‘Seriously he does not make sense sometimes; one of the things he said to me was that his video games were training [for Syria] for him.
‘‘He’s completely out of touch with reality ... and doesn’t understand how to empathise with other human beings any more.’’
Taylor hooked up with Al Qaeda by crossing the Turkish border and walking into the nearest mosque, Morpeth says.
‘‘I don’t think he’s hurt anyone ... I think that he is just paraded around. From what he’s told me, what he’s done there is very little.
‘‘He’s just kind of stuck in the mosque there and taken stupid photos of himself with different weapons and things like that.’’
The Dominion Post