News, July 24, 2015
Police have revealed that teenage extremists are becoming common, after allegations surfaced that a 17-year-old has been preaching extremists views at a Sydney high school.
Counter-terrorism police are investigating allegations that the boy has been preaching extremist Islam in the playground of Epping Boys High School, in Sydney’s northwest.
“We are conducting an investigation into an allegation that a young man is attempting to influence students in his school to adopt his extremist views,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch told The Australian.
It’s understood the investigation was prompted after police received information the boy of Afghan heritage was delivering religious sermons to other pupils.
Sources told The Australian that the boy is an “acolyte” of Milad bin Ahmad-Shah al-Ahmadzai, an alleged Sydney jihadist in jail awaiting trial on a string of charges, including the near-fatal shooting of a man outside a gay club and a ram-raid in shopping centre.
Police believe the student in question has twice tried to travel to Syria, but he was stopped at the airport each time.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Assistant Commissioner Murdoch said police were receiving more and more reports of teenage extremism, both in boys and girls.
“We are seeing this in children as young as 14 years old,” he said.
He said parents should be on the lookout for changes in their children’s behaviour.
“I think if parents know their children and they’ve invested enough in their upbringing, they know when they need to be concerned,” he said.
“The bottom line is if they become concerned about the changing behaviour of their young children and teenagers, they need to put their hand up and flag that there’s been a changed in behaviour.”
Assistant Commissioner Murdoch said police were taking the allegations very seriously and that officers were in constant communication with schools to ensure students and staff were safe.
Epping Boys High principal Tim O’Brien posted to the school’s website that student safety was “our absolute highest priority at all times”.
“I would like to reassure the whole Epping Boys High School community that the school continues to be in close liaison with the Department of Education and a range of law enforcement agencies to uphold our exemplary levels of student safety and student wellbeing.
“School counsellors are available for all boys, if required, today or in the future.
“All normal lessons and activities are proceeding today according to timetable.”
Meanwhile, NSW Premier Mike Baird has expressed his concern about “increasing radicalisation of young people”.
“The issue reported this morning is highly disturbing and I have asked for an urgent briefing from both the Department of Education and NSW Police,” he told The Australian.