CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Iraqi city of Mosul, which is held by Islamic State movement fighters, on Monday became the second terrorist hot-spot to be declared off-limits to Australians under new counterterrorism laws aimed deterring foreign fighters.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Mosul district in northern Iraq had been declared a designated area under a section of the Criminal Code created in October last year.
That means that it is an offense under Australian law punishable by 10 years in prison to enter the district or to remain in it without a legitimate purpose.
The Syrian Islamic Statement group stronghold of al-Raqqa province became the first designated area under the law in December.
"My listing today of a no-go zone in Iraq in addition to the listing of al-Raqqa ... will help our law enforcement agencies bring to justice those who have committed serious terrorist offenses and that includes associating with and fighting for terrorist organizations," Bishop told Parliament.
"Our declaration of Mosul as a terrorist no-go zone is another significant step in combatting Daesh, to starve it of foreign fighters," she added, using another name for the Islamic State movement.
Islamic State followers have carried out mass atrocities in Mosul district, including public beheadings and destruction of numerous historical and religious sites, she said.
"Examples of these hideous crimes include the execution of 13 teenage boys in January for simply watching a soccer match," she said.
Australia is among the leaders of international efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the Middle East.
The government said last month that at least 90 Australians were fighting with and supporting terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. More than 20 Australians have already been killed.
More than 30 foreign fighters have returned to Australia and at least 140 people in Australia were actively supporting extremist groups. More than 90 Australian suspected extremists have had their passports canceled to prevent them joining the fight in Iraq and Syria or from returning home.