Australian authorities detained seven young nationals attempting to leave the country to likely join terrorist groups in the Middle East, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly said Thursday.
Abbott refused to give out the name, age and gender of the seven people taken into custody. He also did not mention where they were intercepted, calling it an “operational matter,” the Associated Press reported.
"We have stopped at the airport seven young Australians who were planning to travel to the Middle East, it seems, to join terrorist groups over there," Abbott reportedly said.
Australia has been trying to prevent its radicalized citizens from traveling to Iraq and Syria to join extremist organizations like the Islamic State group.
"This indicates the continuing allure of this death cult," Abbott said, referring to the Islamic State group’s movement. "It shows the importance of the most vigorous action at home and abroad to disrupt, degrade, to destroy this menace to the freedom and the security of the world."
Abbott’s comments were in response to a report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph about the single largest group of suspected jihadis attempting to leave Australia. The report claimed that counterterrorism authorities stopped a group of five men at Sydney International Airport on Aug. 12.
"I can say to you that there was an incident at Sydney International Airport on Aug. 12 and that follows a number of people who have been off-loaded by the counterterrorism unit officers in particular in Sydney and Melbourne over a period of time," Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said, according to reports.
"We are concerned about the number of people presenting at airports, particularly younger people, who might be seeking to travel overseas for reasons that would horrify Australians and their parents and family and community, no doubt, as well," Dutton added.
According to the Australian government, over 100 Australians are fighting alongside terrorist organizations, including ISIS, in the Middle East, while another 150 people are believed to be supporting militant groups from within the country.