Fears of neo-Nazis in the ranks of the Australian army after the cancellation of the passport of a former soldier


Melbourne man Daniel Todisco, another National Socialist Network member and former Crown Casino employee, claims he served as a Commandos reservist. And former Private Ethan Tilling and former aviator Jared Bennet had both been the subject of an ASIO investigation into their links to extremist groups, official sources confirmed.

Serving soldiers also flirted with extremist groups before disavowing their views. Former Royal Australian Regiment Damien de Pyle was a member of the extremist Lads Society, and Barry Laming, a serving army rifle reservist and trainer, said he joined a group of National Socialist Network online discussion, which involved completing a brief verification process, before “I realized they were actually quite fringed so cut the ties.”

A special forces soldier dressed in Ku Klux Klan outfit at a party at the soldiers’ bar, the Fat Ladies Arms in Afghanistan.

Australian soldiers were also caught displaying symbols of white supremacy while deployed to Afghanistan, including a white-clad special forces soldier from the Ku Klux Klan and another who briefly displayed a flag. swastika on his armored vehicle before being ordered to withdraw it.

An ADF spokesperson declined to comment on the individual cases, but said fitness for duty was assessed through personnel management and security screening reviews and that the Defense worked with law enforcement to identify illegal or inappropriate activity “including… ideologically motivated extremism”.

ASIO chief executive Mike Burgess said the intelligence community was working closely with the ADF to prevent it from unintentionally training white supremacists. But he said some neo-Nazis “absolutely” tried to join the armed forces by hiding their views when recruited.

“They can hide it, carry it out, be well trained. And when they leave, they are improved. And it’s a concern if they then use that to train other people or commit acts of violence themselves, ”said Burgess.

Volunteers from the far-right Azov Battalion at a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, 2018.

Volunteers from the far-right Azov Battalion at a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, 2018.Credit:PA

Mr Sretenovic was intercepted by ASIO and the Australian Border Force at Melbourne Airport in January 2020 with a ticket to Belgrade, Serbia. He then told his supporters that he was traveling to meet a Serbian girlfriend and relatives. But state and federal authorities, who had spent months investigating him, believed he was planning to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Battalion, a neo-Nazi militia fighting Russian forces.

His activities have been confirmed by multiple sources, including figures close to Mr. Sretenovic and officials who monitor terrorist activity, as well as in disclosures Mr. Sretenovic made in cryptic chat rooms while using a pseudonym. .

The cancellation of Mr. Sretenovic’s passport was significant enough to feature in Mr. Burgess’ annual threat assessment speech last year, although Mr. Sretenovic’s name and military history was not disclosed.

Mr Burgess declined to talk about individuals, but said ASIO recommended that a person’s passport be canceled only in serious cases.

“Our concern is [the neo-Nazi] actually coming back to Australia, seasoned with skills, ”he said.

ASIO chief executive Mike Burgess said some neo-Nazis attempted to join the armed forces by hiding their views when recruited.

ASIO chief executive Mike Burgess said some neo-Nazis attempted to join the armed forces by hiding their views when recruited.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Burgess highlighted how neo-Nazi cells, although not new to Australia, are growing and posing a “serious” terrorist threat. The internet, encrypted communication platforms, and various global events have fostered cell expansion and allowed members to network covertly across national and international borders. Officials believe Mr Sretenovic is one of four Australians, including two other former ADF members, who sought to fight with the Azov Battalion.

As the federal government revoked the passports of dozens of suspected Islamic State fighters in Australia, Sretenovic is the first white supremacist to lose his right to travel on national security grounds.

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Contacted by Age and the HeraldMr. Sretenovic sounded both arrogant and threatening, warning, “You stay away, mate… I’ve been watching you for a few years, Mr. McKenzie.”

Mr. Sretenovic declined to answer questions, other than saying that the charges against him by the authorities were unfounded.

“Why do I always walk the streets and have never been charged?” ” he said.

The ASIO can only ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs to cancel a passport if he “suspects on reasonable grounds” that a passport holder is “likely to engage in conduct which could endanger the security of the passport holder. ‘Australia or a foreign country’.

Mr Sretenovic’s complex track record makes him a case study for what Mr Burgess describes as the changing face of ideological extremism in Australia – involving younger men who do not pose as skinheads and who ‘show little clear signs of their extremist ideology ”.

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Mr. Sretenovic was born in Taree, NSW, in 1992 and raised by a single mother. When he was nine, he, his mother and his partner moved to Tasmania. After later moving to Bathurst, NSW, Mr Sretenovic briefly attended two private schools, Scots School and St Stanislaus’ College, but struggled to fit in and moved to Kelso High School.

Those who knew him at the time describe Mr. Sretenovic as a bright but troubled student who excelled in cycling but was a loner. In early 2010, he moved to the Gold Coast where, for the first time, he met his biological father. But the couple fell out and Mr Sretenovic finished high school living alone.

After his mother’s death in 2015, he returned to New South Wales and joined the military, graduating from Kapooka in October 2016. He also trained as an industrial electrician.

It is not known when Mr Sretenovic began his descent into radicalism, but in 2018 he lived in Melbourne and was active in Antipodean Resistance, a top-secret neo-Nazi group that believes in an upcoming race war or a white power revolution.

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In 2019, he posted photos online of himself dressed from head to toe in camouflage, holding an automatic shotgun and a Nazi death symbol obscuring his face.

Mr. Sretenovic was extremely security-conscious, hiding behind online aliases in encrypted chat rooms. But several online videos that he shared with his neo-Nazi adherents under the pseudonym “Systematic Revolutionary” in 2019 and 2020, and which he believed to have deleted, were obtained by this mast from confidential sources.

In his videos, Mr. Sretenovic preaches to “my followers, some of you have been following me for years, some of you know me in real life”.

In the posts, he alludes to his difficult upbringing, referring to “a broken family”. But above all he dispenses with neo-Nazi propaganda, urging others to prepare for “a revolutionary time.”

“This is an international turning point for us as a movement, for us as fascists,” he said on video. “The lines in the sand are drawn.”

In his online videos, Mr. Sretenovic denounces ASIO and the Australian Federal Police, using an image of ASIO’s chief executive, Mr. Burgess, as an online avatar.

“The system is currently overloaded to prevent people like us from going online,” he said in another video post.

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