Abu Sayyaf Group, al Qa'ida, al Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, Hurras al-Din, Jemaah Islamiyah, National Socialist Order
This chapter discusses the listing or re-listing of the seven other organisations that are subject to this review. The chapter summarises evidence provided by the Minister for Home Affairs regarding the background to and the merits of listing each organisation as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code. It notes evidence offered by another submitter in relation to one of the organisations, and concludes with the Committee’s comment on the listings.
Abu Sayyaf Group
Background to this listing
As noted in Chapter 1, the Australian Government first listed Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 14 November 2002, and it has been consistently re-listed since.
A Sunni Islamist religiously-motivated violent extremist group which was founded in 1991 after splintering from the Moro National Liberation Front, ASG primarily operates in the southern Philippines but maintains a presence in eastern Malaysia. ASG’s objective is to establish an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
ASG has approximately 100 active members. Despite the recent deaths of senior leaders as well as surrenders and arrests of lower-level or inactive members, ASG continues to recruit young Muslims, students and family of existing members. Rabdullah Sahiron remains the most senior active ASG leader.
ASG is currently focused on re-building its membership and influence in local communities, while continuing a low-level insurgency against Philippine security forces. ASG also continues to conduct kidnap-for-ransom activities which, while conducted primarily for financial purposes, are used to fund the group’s insurgent operations.
The Statement of Reasons lists recent examples of ASG engaging in, preparing, planning or assisting in the doing of terrorist acts, including:
On 23 February 2021, Philippines law enforcement arrested nine women in Sulu Province for allegedly assembling explosives to be used in suicide bombings. Many of the women were relatives of senior ASG members.
On 29 August 2020, ASG members engaged in a firefight with Philippine Army forces in Patikul, Sulu Province. One soldier was killed and seven were injured.
On 24 August 2020, ASG carried out twin bombings at Paradise Food Plaza in Jolo, Sulu Province, killing 14 people and injuring 75. The attack was directed by another organisation but carried out by ASG members.
On 13 August 2019, a Philippine Army soldier was injured in a bombing in Patikul, Sulu Province. Philippines law enforcement has attributed the attack to ASG.
On 25 May 2019, pro-Islamic State insurgents, including approximately 30 ASG members, engaged in a firefight with Philippine Army forces in Jolo, Sulu Province. Two civilians and five soldiers were killed.
On 27 January 2019, 20 people were killed and 102 injured in twin suicide bombings at the Cathedral of our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu Province. Although another organisation claimed responsibility for the attack, the Philippine military has attributed the bombings to the Ajang-Ajang faction of ASG. It is likely that ASG collaborated in carrying out the attack.
Although Australians are not the primary focus of ASG attacks in the Southern Philippines, the Australian Government assesses that Australians could be opportunistically targeted in kidnappings and could be harmed in terrorist attacks carried out by ASG.
The Statement of Reasons provides an example of a threat to Australians: ASG kidnapped an Australian national, Warren Rodwell, from his residence in western Mindanao in December 2011. Mr Rodwell was released in March 2013.
ASG is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. The United Nations Security Council designates ASG for targeted financial sanctions.
Background to this listing
As noted in Chapter 1, the Australian Government first listed al-Qa’ida (AQ) as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 21 October 2002, and it has been consistently re-listed since.
AQ is a Sunni Islamist religiously motivated violent extremist group, which seeks to establish a transnational Islamic caliphate by removing, using violence if necessary, governments in Muslim-majority countries that it deems ‘un-Islamic’. The group’s overall aim is to replace these governments with Sharia-based Islamic governance.
AQ views the United States and its allies, including Australia, as enemies and a significant obstacle to achieving its objective.
AQ was founded by Usama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam in 1988 to continue their jihad against perceived enemies of Islam. Bin Laden gained full control of the organisation after Azzam’s death in 1989. During the 1990s AQ developed a global network of affiliates to secure a cadre of fighters to promote global jihad. Ayman al-Zawahiri succeeded bin Laden as leader following bin Laden’s death in 2011, until al-Zawahiri’s death in July 2022. In 2016, al-Zawahiri delegated oversight of the group’s operational activities to the Hattin Committee, a core group of AQ’s senior members located in Iran.
AQ has a number of global affiliate organisations which operate with varying degrees of independence and are listed separately under the Criminal Code. AQ has also been known to engage with and provide guidance to other violent extremist groups.
The Australian Government advised that it has been over a decade since AQ’s senior leadership has been directly linked to a significant terrorist attack. AQ distances itself from public links to terrorist acts, probably as a deliberate strategy to avoid counter-terrorism pressure. However, AQ leaders outline strategic priorities and guidelines, to shape and inspire attacks by affiliates, ideologically-aligned groups and lone actors.
The Government’s Statement of Reasons provided two recent examples of terrorist attacks conducted by affiliate groups which those organisations publicly claimed to be part of a ‘Jerusalem will never be Judaized’ campaign directed by senior AQ leadership.
Moreover, AQ’s leadership and media outlets often encourage, promote and praise terrorist attacks conducted by affiliates, other terrorist organisations or lone-actor jihadists against ‘enemies of Islam’ including Western countries.
Recent examples of AQ advocating the doing of terrorist acts include:
On 11 September 2021, AQ leader al-Zawahiri praised attacks by lone actors and affiliates, including a lone-actor attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola in the US on 6 December 2019, and a claimed suicide attack by affiliate Hurras al-Din against a Russian military base in Syria in January 2021. The Australian Government considers that Al-Zawahiri’s statements were likely made with the intention of leading other persons to engage in similar terrorist acts, and pose a substantial risk of doing so.
On 12 March 2021, AQ’s official media outlet as-Sahab released a propaganda video denouncing the lack of response to the Rohingya refugee crisis. The video featured audio clips of al-Zawahiri, who called on Muslims to attack Myanmar and its interests to avenge the violence committed against the Rohingya people.
On 2 January 2021, as-Sahab released a statement encouraging Muslims to respond to statements made by the president of France by conducting jihad ‘by all means’, including repeating the 2015 terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in France.
On 8 June 2020, as-Sahab published an article promoting ‘e-jihad’ – which is stated to include hacking and leaking information as well as cyber-attacks to cause serious disruptions to electronic systems such as financial, communications and other critical infrastructure.
On 11 September 2019, as-Sahab released a speech by al-Zawahiri, calling for Muslims to attack American, European, Israeli and Russian interests, promoting violent jihad, and encouraging Palestinians to seek ‘martyrdom’ and engage in attacks against Israelis.
On 23 March 2019, as-Sahab published a statement calling on young people to conduct violent attacks to avenge the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As-Sahab directed potential attackers to target ‘crusaders’ in crowded places.
Australians have previously been killed and injured in attacks directed or inspired by AQ, including 10 Australians killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks.
The Australian Government assesses that Australia remains a terrorist target, and an attack by a lone actor or small group could be conducted by Sunni Islamist violent extremists affiliated with or inspired by AQ.
AQ is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the US, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union. The United Nations Security Council designates AQ for targeted financial sanctions.
al Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb
Background to this listing
The Australian Government first listed this organisation under its former name, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) on 14 November 2002. The organisation has been listed as al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) since 9 August 2008.
AQIM is an affiliate of AQ and shares its Sunni Islamist religiously-motivated violent extremist ideology, seeking to create an Islamist state in North and West Africa ruled by Sharia law.
AQIM has declared war against foreigners and foreign interests through North and West Africa and Europe and used violence to bring about its objectives. AQIM has declared its support for religiously motivated violent extremist activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Chechnya and Palestine.
AQIM’s membership is estimated at approximately 1,000 fighters across Algeria, northern Mali, southwest Libya and Niger. The group recruits from several other North and West African countries. Since November 2020, AQIM has been led by Abu Ubaidah Youssef al-Annabi.
AQIM continues to engage in terrorist attacks and kidnappings against a wide range of targets in North and West Africa. Examples of recent attacks include:
On 27 June 2020, two Algerian Army personnel were killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Ain Dalia, northern Algeria. An AQ-aligned media agency claimed that AQIM was responsible for the attack.
On 20 June 2020, militants ambushed an Algerian Army detachment in Ain Defla, northern Algeria, killing one soldier. An AQ-aligned media agency claimed that AQIM was responsible for the attack.
On 26 April 2019, a Tunisian Army soldier was killed and three were injured in an IED attack in Chaambi Mountains National Park, north-western Tunisia. AQIM claimed the attack was undertaken by militants from its Uqba bin Nafi Battalion.
AQIM leaders have also publicly advocated terrorism in order to further the group’s objectives, including calling on Muslims to support and conduct various ‘jihad operations’, and praising ‘martyrdom’—likely references to undertaking terrorist acts.
AQIM has not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, AQIM adheres to AQ’s anti-Western ideology and the Australian Government considers that Australians may be harmed in attacks carried out by AQIM.
AQIM is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, Canada and New Zealand, and is proscribed by the United Kingdom under the name Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC). The United Nations Security Council designates AQIM for targeted financial sanctions.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham
Background to this listing
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has not previously been listed under the Criminal Code. The group’s predecessor, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, was listed by the Australian Government on 29 June 2013 and re-listed on 28 June 2016 and 9 April 2019.
HTS is a Sunni Islamist religiously-motivated violent extremist group based in north-western Syria. HTS opposes the government of Bashar al-Assad and aims to replace the government with an Islamic caliphate. HTS’ predecessor was originally aligned with AQ but HTS is an independent organisation focused primarily on operations in Syria.
Abu-Muhammad al-Jawlani is the leader of HTS and is likely guided by a Shura council. HTS operates a number of paramilitary units and likely controls the Salvation Government, a civilian-run administrative and political body in north-western Syria.
In 2020, HTS reportedly had between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters; largely recruits from the Syrian population.
HTS is engaged in ongoing hostilities against Syrian Government forces and rival militant groups in pursuit of its political objectives. Recent terrorist attacks include:
On 11 June 2021, HTS claimed to have fired 140 rockets and artillery shells at positions held by Russian and Syrian forces in Idlib, as revenge for the killing of senior HTS members.
On 24 August 2020, HTS claimed to have killed three members of a pro-Syrian government militia in Jabal az Zawiyah south of Idlib.
On 24 January 2020, HTS artillery fire reportedly injured 15 members of a pro-Syrian government militia in western Aleppo.
From 10-11 July 2019, militant groups including HTS attacked the town of Hamamiyat. Forty-one Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters were reportedly killed in the engagement.
On 25 February 2019, an HTS missile attack on Syrian Army forces killed eight soldiers and injured at least 17.
On 7 September 2018, an HTS rocket attack on the town of Mahardeh killed nine civilians and injured 20.
Although HTS does not publicly call for attacks against Western interests and is focused primarily on the Syrian conflict, a number of Australians and former Australians in Syria are members of or affiliated with HTS, and the Australian Government also believes there is a possibility that Australians may be incidentally harmed in attacks undertaken by HTS.
HTS is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the United Kingdom and Canada. The United States specifies HTS as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Hurras al-Din (HaD)
Background to this listing
Hurras al-Din (HaD) has not previously been listed under the Criminal Code. However, HaD is also a successor to Jabhat al-Nusra, which was listed by the Australian Government from 2013-2022.
HaD is a Sunni Islamist religiously-motivated violent extremist group which was established in Idlib, Syria in early 2018 as part of AQ’s global network. HaD adheres to a violent jihadist ideology and encourages violence as a key tactic for pursuing religious and political outcomes aligned with AQ’s objectives. HaD’s current leader is Faruq al-Suri, a veteran member of AQ who was the military commander of Jabhat al-Nusra until he left the group in 2016.
In mid-2019 HaD was estimated to have between 700 and 2,500 fighters, half of which were foreign fighters. However, this has likely decreased since, with HaD weakened by conflict with HTS, and operations in Syria by US-led coalition forces. Much of HaD’s leadership has been killed or imprisoned and the remainder are largely in hiding.
HaD is engaged in ongoing hostilities against Syrian Government forces and rival militant groups in pursuit of its political objectives. Recent terrorist attacks that can be reliably attributed to HaD include:
On 4 August 2021, HaD conducted a bombing against a bus in Damascus, killing at least four people.
On 1 January 2021, HaD conducted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and small arms attack against a Russian military base in Raqqah Province. Two Russian soldiers were injured.
On 10 May 2020, HaD fighters attacked the town of Tanjarah in Sahl al-Gahb. More than 30 Syrian Army soldiers and pro-government fighters were reportedly killed in the engagement. HaD conducted a second attack on Tanjarah on 10 June 2020 temporarily seizing control of the town.
HaD also advocates terrorism, including attacks against Western interests, through its media foundation Sham al-Ribat Media. Recent examples include:
In October 2021, HaD issued a statement addressing the United States and all ‘enemies of Islam’ stating “we will wage jihad and not surrender and not go back”. In this context ‘jihad’ likely refers to undertaking terrorist acts.
On 16 May 2021, HaD encouraged attacks on Israeli interests in response to recent events in Israel.
On 7 March 2020, HaD leader al-Suri encouraged the group’s fighters to attack Syrian Government forces, saying ‘So horrify them by infiltrating, and terrorise them with raids, and intensify upon them attack after attack, and raid after raid. Stifle their breath with commandos and martyrdom-seekers, and booby-trap the earth from under them, and place traps in the trees and rocks, and turn their night into day and their day into fire.”
No Australians are known to be involved with HaD.
Although HaD has not specifically threatened attacks against Australian interests, the group adheres to al-Qa’ida’s violent anti-Western ideology and the Australian Government assesses that HaD poses an ongoing threat to Western, including Australian, interests.
The United States specifies HaD as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Background to this listing
As noted in Chapter 1, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) was first listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian Government on 27 October 2002, and has been consistently re-listed since.
JI is a Sunni Islamist religiously-motivated violent extremist group with a highly compartmentalised structure, inspired by the anti-Western jihadist ideology of AQ, which supports the use of terrorism to advance its political objectives.
JI seeks to revive a pure form of Islam governed by the tenets of Sharia. It developed from the Indonesian Islamist Movement, Darul Islam which fought insurgency to establish an Islamist state in Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s. JI’s primary objectives entail establishing a support base of followers and then, through armed struggle, creating an Islamist state in Indonesia and eventually a regional caliphate incorporating Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines.
JI is estimated to have approximately 6,000 members primarily in Indonesia with a small number in Malaysia and the Philippines. Since 2002 hundreds of members have been arrested by Indonesian and Philippine authorities. The most recent emir of JI, Para Wijayanto, was arrested by Indonesian authorities in June 2019 and sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment in July 2020.
JI also maintains a network of affiliated extremist religious schools (pesantren). These schools inculcate young Indonesians with the group’s extremist interpretation of Islam and legitimisation of violence, and are used by JI as a source of militant recruits for future terrorist activities.
JI has historically engaged in large-scale terrorist attacks in South East Asia including attacks against regional governments, Christian communities and Western interests. JI attacks have resulted in hundreds of deaths and have targeted hotels, bars, diplomatic premises, transport and military infrastructure and churches. JI also has a history of sending foreign fighters to support affiliated groups in Syria.
JI has not been linked to a successful terrorist attack since 2009, more recently prioritising building political and institutional influence over the use of violence. However, the Australian Government advised that available evidence indicates that the group continues to clandestinely prepare, plan and foster the doing of terrorist acts, and that ‘JI could return to violence with limited warning’.
Meanwhile, some JI cells have independently continued to engage in attack planning, with Indonesian law enforcement arresting suspected JI members for planning attacks and stockpiling weapons in 2020 and 2021.
JI maintains paramilitary training capabilities and the ability to acquire and stockpile weapons and explosives. It conducted training as recently as 2020 across at least a dozen locations in Indonesia. Members were trained in martial arts, use of firearms and bladed weapons, urban warfare tactics and bomb making in a villa located in Semarang, Central Java.
JI’s first successful anti-Western attack was the Bali bombings of 12 October 2002 which killed 202 people including 88 Australians. This was followed by the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004 and a further bombing in Bali in 2005 which killed four Australians. Three Australians were killed in simultaneous bombings against the JW Marriott Hotel and the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jakarta in 2009.
JI has specifically identified Western countries as enemies and could return to violence including against Australian interests with limited warning.
While JI has historically had a presence in Australia, no Australians are known to currently be involved with JI.
JI is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand and is a proscribed organisation in Indonesia. The United Nations Security Council designates JI for targeted financial sanctions.
National Socialist Order
Background to this listing
The 2022 regulation lists National Socialist Order (NSO) as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code for the first time.
National Socialist Order (NSO), formerly known as Atomwaffen Division (AWD), is a nationalist and racist violent extremist group founded in 2015 in the United States by Brandon Russell. NSO traces its origins to Iron March, a now defunct internet forum for white supremacists and national socialists. Following the arrests of multiple leadership figures in early 2020 and reorganisation into NSO in July 2020 the group is reportedly being co-led by four members each of whom has responsibility for a region in the US.
NSO promotes a national socialist and accelerationist ideology, advocating the use of violence to initiate a ‘race war’, in order to accelerate the collapse of western society and establish a ‘white ethno-state’.
Current membership numbers are unclear following the arrests of several members by US law enforcement and the subsequent rebranding from AWD to NSO in 2020, and are difficult to determine due to the dispersed and decentralised nature of the group. In 2018 the organisation had approximately 80 members across the US with the largest cells reportedly located in Texas, Washington and Virginia.
NSO primarily recruits through online channels, including Telegram, Discord and Gab. Before 2020, the group actively sought to recruit from the US military in order to gain members with military experience and potential access to military equipment.
NSO has inspired the formation of a significant number of likeminded groups internationally, and shares a number of members with ideologically-aligned US group The Base. The Base is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Governments of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Consistent with NSO’s strategy of ‘leaderless resistance’ and advocacy of lone-actor terrorism, members of the group have prepared for and made credible threats of violence against ideological opponents.
In February 2020, NSO (then AWD) cell leader Kaleb Cole and three other members, Johnny Garza, Cameron Shea, and Taylor Parker-Dipeppe, were charged with a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists. The group delivered posters to journalists and Jewish activists, which included national socialist symbols, violent imagery and threatening language. These were assessed to have constituted a threat of targeted violence against AWD’s ideological opponents.
In November 2019, NSO (then AWD) cell leader Kaleb Cole and member Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh were arrested in Texas for firearms offences following a traffic stop by law enforcement where officers found a substantial quantity of firearms and ammunition. In April 2020, Bruce-Umbaugh was sentenced to two years’ and six months’ imprisonment.
In August 2019, NSO (then AWD) member Conor Climo was charged with possession of unregistered bomb-making material. Between May and July 2019, Climo had discussed using incendiaries to attack a synagogue in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had also conducted surveillance of a Las Vegas bar catering to the LGBTQI community in preparation for a potential terrorist attack. Climo was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in November 2020.
In September 2017, NSO (then AWD) leader Brandon Russell was arrested and charged with possessing an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material. Russell had been stockpiling the high-explosive substance HMDT at his Florida apartment alongside homemade fuses and explosive precursors. The materials were discovered after an AWD member murdered two other members in the apartment. Federal prosecutors argued that Russell planned to use the explosives in a terrorist attack, potentially against nuclear facilities or synagogues.
In September 2017, NSO (then AWD) held its first ‘hate camp’ in Illinois. Subsequent camps were held in Nevada, Texas and Washington State over 2017 and 2018. The ‘hate camps’ were intended to train AWD members in firearms, close-quarters combat, bomb-making and survival skills in preparation for a perceived impending ‘race war’.
Although there is limited information on the group’s activities since its rebranding from AWD, its current leadership has declared an intent to pursue the same objectives. Given the group’s previous threats of and clandestine preparations for terrorism, and its continuing encouragement and promotion of terrorism, the Australian Government assesses that NSO likely continues to prepare its members to engage in violence in pursuit of its ideological causes.
The organisation has continued to advocate the doing of terrorist acts since its rebranding as NSO. In 2021, NSO uploaded a number of videos containing violent extremist rhetoric to video-sharing website Odysee.
A video uploaded on 12 September 2021 shows footage of police being assaulted in riots including in the attack on the US Capitol building on
6 January 2021.
A video uploaded on 30 May 2021 titled ‘NSO’s Three Step Guide’, tells viewers to ‘educate’ themselves on national socialist literature to identify enemies and to take violent action against them.
A video uploaded on 27 May 2021 shows members distributing NSO posters in California. One poster displays racist caricatures of ethnic minorities with ‘exterminate’ written under them.
A video uploaded on 21 May 2021 titled ‘NSO Program’ includes statements such as ‘Our priority is to seize territorial power by any means necessary’; ‘the earth should be solely populated by the Aryan race’; ‘we require all members to be armed and ready at a moment’s notice’; and ‘racial holy war now’.
NSO has significant reach within the global white supremacist landscape. As AWD, it had links to the defunct Australia-based extremist group Antipodean Resistance.
The Australian Government considers that a successful terrorist attack directed or inspired by NSO or an associated group could result in harm to Australians, and the group’s activities and propaganda have ongoing potential to inspire Australian violent extremists and contribute to the radicalisation of others.
NSO is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Governments of Canada and the UK.
Comments from submitters
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) submitted to the Committee that it agreed entirely with the listing of NSO, and with the reasons provided by the Minister for doing so.
After examining the evidence provided to it, the Committee considers that the process for listing Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Hay’at Tahir al-Sham, Hurras al-Din, Jemaah Islamiyah and National Socialist Order as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code (as set out in Chapter 1 and Appendix B) has been followed appropriately by the Australian Government.
The Australian Government has validly reached the assessment that the seven organisations meet the legislative criteria for listing as terrorist organisations, by being directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or by advocating the doing of a terrorist act.
The Committee is satisfied that the listings are necessary in order to protect Australians and Australia’s interests, and finds no reason to disallow these regulations.
Mr Peter Khalil MP
20 September 2022