Untold story: Toowoomba teen defends Syria trip

Oliver Bridgeman playing football in the rain in Indonesia.
Oliver Bridgeman playing football in the rain in Indonesia. Contributed

TOOWOOMBA teen Oliver Bridgeman has denied any involvement with terrorist organisations or rebel groups in Syria.

Mr Bridgeman, 18, used his Facebook account to speak for the first time since it was reported that he had left Australia to fight alongside terrorists in Syria.

OUR SAY: Two sides to every story, even Oliver Bridgeman's

Mr Bridgeman claimed media had "blown everything out of proportion and written blatant lies" about his activities.

Oliver Bridgeman's Facebook post.
Oliver Bridgeman's Facebook post.

Mr Bridgeman assured his Facebook followers that he was safe and had "never feared" for his life since arriving in Syria two months ago.

"I'm only working in parts of Syria that are free from any fighting," he said.

"I would like to thank all my family and friends that have defended me through this media campaign and I would like to assure everyone that I'm safe and having a wonderful experience."

Mr Bridgeman said limited internet access had made it difficult to communicate with those concerned for his safety.

An Australian Federal Police spokesperson said yesterday, "Consistent with long standing practice the AFP does not comment on individuals, operational and intelligence matters or ongoing investigations."

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However, on May 26, the AFP issued a response to The Chronicle in relation to Mr Bridgeman's activities.

"The AFP is aware that a teenager from the Toowoomba area of Queensland left Australia recently and may be in a Middle East conflict area.

"The AFP is engaging with his family and is looking at ways that we might be able to communicate with him in an effort to convince him to return home.

"While these efforts are occurring, no further comment will be made."

 

THE STORY SO FAR

IN MAY, reports emerged Oliver Bridgeman had become Australia's latest jihadi fighter.

Mr Bridgeman, who left Australia in March for a humanitarian trip to Indonesia, was suspected of joining the ranks of the al-Qa'ida-linked Al-Nusra Front in war-torn Syria.

Federal counter-terrorism police intelligence suggested he was in a conflict zone and officers had been trying to communicate with the teen to persuade him to come home.

Queensland media reported police had confirmed the 18-year-old fled Australia, following the path of up to a dozen other Queenslanders thought to have taken up arms in the Middle East.

The paper quoted Australian Federal Police manager of counter-terrorism operations Commander Peter Crozier as saying the latest intelligence suggested the teenager was "in the conflict area" ... and had "aligned himself with a proscribed (terrorist) group".

Mr Bridgeman, who occasionally attended the Garden City Mosque in Toowoomba, used a second Facebook alias "Yusuf Oli" which suggested he was leading a double life.

In a statement responding to reports, Mr Bridgeman's parents said they did not believe he was supporting al-Qa'ida.

"We had no indication that he was making plans to travel to the Middle East. However, we now know that he is probably there," his parents, who have not been named, said.

"We do not believe he is participating in fighting of any kind, nor do we believe he is supporting or participating in terrorist acts.

"We love our son very much."


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