SYDNEY - Australia on Monday barred its citizens from travelling to Mosul in northern Iraq, in a push to combat what the government calls growing radicalization among young Australian Muslims, some of whom have fought overseas with terror groups.
The announcement by Foreign Minster Julie Bishop comes ahead of a planned offensive, perhaps as soon as April or May, to retake Mosul with a contingent of US-trained Iraqi and Kurdish force of 20,000 to 25,000.
It is the second time Australia has used a tough new law barring overseas travel to specific areas, following a ban on the province of Raqqa in Syria, a key strategic hub for Islamic State.
"The government is determined to stop Australians joining the terrorist conflict in Iraq and Syria and supporting terrorist organisations," Bishop said in a statement.
Under tough new security powers won by conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott in October, Australian citizens can face up to a decade in prison for overseas travel to areas declared off limits.
The move was part of a broader crackdown on what Abbott calls a growing threat posed by Australians radicalized while fighting overseas with Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State, or various al-Qaida-affiliated groups.