'Foreign fighters' may face travel restrictions

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 15:34 06/11/2014
Gerry Brownlee
WORRIED: Gerry Brownlee says Islamic State are the world's most "sophisticated" terror group, "ever".

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Suspected foreign fighters may have their domestic travel movements restricted as part of ramped up national security measures if surveillance indicated they were looking to commit illegal acts, the Government says.

Prime Minister John Key announced yesterday 30-40 people were on a "watchlist" of concern in the foreign fighter context - people in, or from, New Zealand who were participating in extremist behaviour in various ways.

A further 30-40 people required further investigation in addition to the watchlist group.

Close tabs would be kept on the people concerned, and if a person was under surveillance the government would want to know "where they're going and what they're going for and what they're up to", Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said today.

Asked if that would involve stopping people boarding domestic flights, Brownlee said: "We are looking very carefully at these people and where they would be engaged in illegal activity we'd be wanting to stop that."

Brownlee said the Government did not want the extra vigilance to impact on the freedom of others.

Asked if the risk of retaliation from Islamic State was greater following Key's announcement New Zealand would contribute to intelligence gathering against the terrorists, Brownlee was dismissive.

"Do you really think that the world's most sophisticated terrorist organisation, ever, doesn't know that NZ is part of Five Eyes?"

Military planners in Iraq were present as "part of the intelligence community" assessing how New Zealand could assist the Iraqis if their government requested help - Kiwi troops had not "joined the fight against Islamic State", he said.

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