Funds are being moved from New Zealand in support of the chilling terror campaign waged by Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq.
Prime Minister John Key has spelt out the Kiwi link ahead of his first major national security speech on Wednesday in which he is expected to detail the number of New Zealanders backing Isis, either by signing up to its cause as fighters, or by supplying funds.
His speech will detail “the number of people we think are a very credible risk . . . who either want to leave the country and be foreign fighters, or people financially supporting that cause”.
Isis has sparked international condemnation and outrage after several highly publicised beheadings of Western aid workers and journalists, and for encouraging terror attacks in the West.
Key is also expected to outline New Zealand’s contribution to the war in Iraq – likely to include a step up in humanitarian aid, deploying military hardware including airlift capability, and intelligence gathering.
The Government has ruled out combat troops but has been weighing up sending the Special Air Service, possibly in an advisory role.
The speech had been prompted by “the changing environment and challenges” posed by Isis, Key said.
The terrorist group were “dangerous, brutal and ugly”.
“My own view is these people present one of the more significant threats in modern times.”
Key has warned that the number of Kiwis actively engaged with Isis, including those wanting to take up arms with the terror group, will “surprise” most people.
The speech will outline legislation in line with a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on the international community to crack down on these so-called “foreign fighters”.
The head of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, Dr Anwar Ghani, said he hoped New Zealand would stop short of sending combat troops to Iraq.
“We don’t need to get involved in somebody else’s war.”
Muslims in New Zealand have increasingly become the target of abuse and harassment on the back of publicity about the rise of Isis, Ghani said. Members of the Muslim community raised the matter with police at a meeting in Auckland on Saturday.
“The women folks and the younger women and school children are facing hostility from people that were making comments which are totally unacceptable.”
But a Muslim convert now living in Indonesia, Bilal Morpeth, said if any Kiwis had gone abroad to fight for Islamic causes, it was because they were ostracised by Muslim communities within New Zealand.
“I’m deeply concerned for the welfare of young Muslims and converts in New Zealand. Personally I’d like to be back there.”
Morpeth previously worshipped at the same Sydney mosque as self-proclaimed Kiwi jihadi Mark Taylor, who is now in Syria with an al Qaeda offshoot.
Taylor is subject to travel restrictions. His Indonesian wife said yesterday she was scared that Isis would kill her husband. Her husband also hated Isis, she said.
Taylor appears to have signed up to another al Qaeda offshoot.
Taylor burnt his New Zealand passport on arrival in Syria but sources have confirmed he has since inquired about a new one.
His wife said he could not afford the application fee and he had only burnt his passport because a “criminal” had attacked him and tried to take it off him.
She described him as a “sensitive” person who easily trusted strangers.
He was also addicted to computer war games, which he played for hours at a time.
“Finally he decided to look for a job in Qatar and Turkey. He wants to get a better financial deal for family. Then he changed his mind to go to Syria to fight like a battle game that he used to play mostly every day.”