Working paper

Typology of terror - the backgrounds of Australian jihadis

Terrorism Domestic terrorism Islam and politics Jihad Radicalism Islamic State Australia

This study is the first phase of an ongoing project to document the characteristics of Australians’ contribution to global jihad in the Islamic State era. To date we have collected data on 173 Australian citizens and residents known to have joined radical Islamist terrorist organisations or who have been charged with terrorism offences. Given the nature of the subject matter, the data sets collected for each of the subject areas may be incomplete, although the size of the data sets for each subject area is noted in this Working Paper and reflected in the digital version.

The data comes from a range of sources: documents related to terrorism trials; media reports; individuals’ social media profiles; publicly available information such as business and charity registration data; and associated interviews with journalists, government and law enforcement officials. The study will be updated as additional data becomes available from further terrorism trials and new information about foreign fighters is uncovered.

The following are some particular methodological aspects of this research project:

  • Generally, no distinction has been made between those who travelled to undertake jihad and those convicted of domestic terrorist offences. The focus of this study is to discern motivation rather than role. The evidence indicates that those who financed foreign terrorist fighters or facilitated their actions in other ways believed themselves just as committed to jihad as were the fighters. And in many cases it is an artificial divide. Australian authorities cancelled or refused passports to a number of individuals who then resorted to planning attacks in Australia because they had been prevented from travelling. Nearly half of those charged or convicted of terrorism offences in Australia have had their passports cancelled or refused, and a number cited those cancellations or refusals as their motivation for attacking targets in Australia.
  • The paper’s conclusions on mental health and terrorism, and evaluations of causal links between terrorist acts and the mental health of accused terrorists, are based solely on the findings of the judge or coroner in each case. They are the only ones who are exposed to all the evidence and objectively weigh up mental health specialists’ views.
  • The data set includes minors, but only those who have been convicted of a terrorism offence in Australia, who travelled to Syria or Iraq willingly, or who subsequently became an active supporter of Islamic State once there. Minors taken by their parents and who had no active role with Islamic State or children born in Syria or Iraq are not included in the figures.
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