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A senior Australian neo-Nazi linked to an international terror group has left the country after telling associates he intended to fight in Ukraine, amid efforts by security services to stop domestic extremists gaining overseas military training.
Daniel Newman, a violent criminal with deep links to neo-Nazi leaders in NSW and Victoria and overseas terror outfit Combat 18, flew to Asia this month, but it is unclear whether he ever made it to Ukraine.
Daniel Newman has links to neo-Nazi leaders in NSW and Victoria and overseas terror outfit Combat 18.Credit:
A source aware of his movements, who was granted anonymity to discuss private information, said Newman had initially flown to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and told people he was then travelling to Europe some time in the last month.
The Department of Home Affairs and ASIO have engaged in extensive efforts to stop Australian white supremacists travelling to Ukraine to fight, with authorities launching a dedicated operation, codenamed Project Backencourt, to block neo-Nazis from leaving Australia to gain military training.
The source said it was the second time Newman had attempted to travel to Ukraine from Australia in the past year.
Daniel Newman (left) and Des Liddington feature in a post on social media.Credit:
Asked whether the government was aware Newman had travelled to Ukraine, a spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said: “The government does not comment on matters of national security.”
NSW neo-Nazi leader Des Liddington last year wrote in an online forum under the name David Liddington: “Just heard my mate here Danny has gone to fight in Ukraine. Don’t die brother. Respect.”
Newman is a member of violent UK-founded extremist group Combat 18. The group has members across Europe and has been charged with murders and serious acts of political violence. In 2019, the group was designated a terror organisation in Canada.
Another neo-Nazi extremist, former Australian Army soldier Conor Sretenovic, has been banned by ASIO from flying to Europe because of security agency concerns he also wishes to fight in Ukraine.
Sretenovic has been unable to leave Australia since former foreign minister Marise Payne cancelled his passport in 2020.
Conor Sretenovic, a former Australian Defence Force member, was the first neo-Nazi to have his passport cancelled on national security grounds.Credit:
Sretenovic has told associates he was interrogated by ASIO in late 2020 over the agency’s concern he planned to build on his previous military training in Australia by joining fighting forces in Ukraine.
Right-wing extremists from Western nations are among foreign fighters who have joined Ukraine’s defence forces to fight the Russian army, which invaded last year.
Since Russian-backed separatists started a war in the country’s east in 2014, far-right vigilantes have travelled to Ukraine to fight on both sides.
The ultranationalist Azov Battalion previously had neo-Nazi links, but Ukraine’s armed forces have sought to expel far-right adherents in the unit after all private militias were integrated into the country’s military in recent years.
Sretenovic dismissed claims by ASIO and NSW and Victorian counter-terror authorities that he was a member of secretive neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance, which believes in stoking a race war in Australia.
In September 2019, Sretenovic discussed his stint in the Australian Army and how it set him on the path to extremism on a far-right online forum.
The Australian Defence Force is also ramping up measures to identify and weed out right-wing extremists within its ranks, after this masthead on Saturday revealed that three serving soldiers had links to neo-Nazi groups.
Newman and Sretenovic have both played key roles in Australia’s right-wing extremist movement.
Newman, who has previously been jailed for violent offending in Victoria, has helped Australia’s largest neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Network, forge connections among Aryan prison gangs and set up a new cell in Tasmania.
On Wednesday, the mother of one of the soldiers told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald her 26-year-old son had previously been investigated by the military but was no longer active in extremist circles. Before joining the military, the still-serving soldier was in an extremist group led by National Socialist Network leader Tom Sewell.
ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess previously told this masthead the intelligence community was working closely with the ADF to prevent it unwittingly training white supremacists. But he said some neo-Nazis were “absolutely” attempting to join the armed forces by concealing their views when recruited.
“They can mask that, carry through, get well trained. And when they leave, they’re improved,” Burgess said.
While neo-Nazi groups have a long history of attempting to access firearms and weapons training in Australia, other lesser-known fringe groups in the far-right community have also sought access to guns and hunting permits.
Records reveal the NSW Department of Primary Industries has licensed a group run by “white Australia” advocates the Australian Natives Association as an approved hunting organisation.
The natives association was created by Matthew Grant, a self-professed “white Australia” advocate, who said the hunting organisation status could help members apply for their hunting permit and gun licence, a process that also requires vetting by NSW Police.
In an interview, Grant stressed he was opposed to neo-Nazism as a “foreign ideology” and that the Australian Natives Association was not an extremist group but rather an organisation that “believes in a white Australia on social and economic grounds”.
Grant has for several years been on the periphery of Australian far-right circles, having addressed an anti-mosque Reclaim Australia rally in Bendigo in 2015 and previously promoted the Australian Natives Association on a podcast hosted by a figure from New Zealand extremist organisation Action Zealandia – a group Grant said he has since disowned.
“I wouldn’t be a [podcast] guest again,” he said.
Grant said the number of Australian Natives Association members who had acquired a gun licence “was less than four” and the group’s interest in firearms was limited to hunting pest animals.
Asked whether it was appropriate for Australian Natives Association members to hold gun licences or an approved hunting organisation registration, NSW Police said it would not comment on specific investigations, individuals, or groups but was monitoring the activities and rhetoric of racist and extremist groups.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries declined to comment on the association’s hunting licence. “Approved hunting organisation status is only granted if applicants can prove their adherence to the NSW Game Hunting Licence Code of Practice,” it said.
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This article has been updated to make clear that while Newman has told associates he has gone to Ukraine, it is unclear whether he ever made it to the country.
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