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  • Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

    Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

Published 4 December 2014

As part of the new security laws of the country Auatralia marked Raqqa province as a “no-go zone.”

The Australian government exercised on Thursday it's sweeping new security powers, and banned it's citizens from traveling to the Syrian province of al-Raqqa.

Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that the region was a stronghold of the Islamic State group, and that it is off limits for Australians, as part of a push to combat terrorism in the country.

"Under the provisions of our foreign fighters legislation, I have today declared al-Raqqa province an area where a listed terrorist organization is engaging in hostile activity," Bishop told Parliament, according to Reuters news agency.

"This now makes it an offense under Australian law to enter or remain in the province of al-Raqqa without a legitimate reason. Anyone who enters or remains faces a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment," he added.

Bishop said that Islamic State group's activities in the region include murder, rape, intimidation and enslavement of women, according to British paper The Guardian.

On September Australian conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott raised the country's terrorism alert level from medium to high, after warnings from security officials that more of its citizens are joining extremist groups in the Middle East.

This is the first time Abbot uses the new security powers. He said that at least 70 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria backed by about 100 Australia-based "facilitators.” 

In October, the Australian Parliament approved new laws to fight terrorism in the country. One of the most controversial measures was the one giving new powers to the government to declare “no-travel zones” to places where a terrorist group is carrying out hostile activity. Another controversial law was regarding data retention that affects the privacy of citizens.

Critics say the data retention laws go too far in compromising privacy, that they will be too costly and could expose journalists and whistleblowers to hefty prison sentences.

Australia is also participating in the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

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