Australian police have detained five men they suspect were planning to sail from the country’s northern coast in a bid to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
Reuters reports that the five men were intercepted on Tuesday after transporting a 7-meter boat more than 1,800 miles north from Melbourne. They reportedly chose to leave Australia by boat because their passports had been invalidated.
“We’re investigating the allegation they were planning to make their way through Indonesia to the Philippines, with a view to ending up in Syria,” Shane Patton, the deputy police commissioner in Victoria, told reporters.
Scores of people are believed to have traveled from Australia to Syria to join ISIS, but Patton said he wasn’t aware of any others attempting to join the group by boat.
The men, who have not been formally charged, were arrested in Cairns, in the northern state of Queensland, before getting a chance to launch their tiny vessel. They were apparently heading to Australia’s northern tip, which lies about 2,000 miles across open sea from the southern Philippines, where ISIS-affiliated Islamist separatists operate.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation identified one of the five detained men as Musa (née Robert) Cerantonio, a Melbourne-born Muslim convert who allegedly preaches online in support of militants fighting in the Middle East and North Africa.