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Key reveals Kiwis fighting with rebels in Syria

Published: 4:55PM Monday February 10, 2014 Source: ONE News

The Prime Minister has confirmed New Zealanders are fighting with anti-government forces in Syria.

John Key says a small number of citizens had joined the anti-Assad rebel groups, some of which have ties to Al Qaeda.

"It involves people who are opposed to the Assad regime and there are a variety of rebel groups, but my understanding of it is the largest rebel group is associated to Al Qaeda," he said at his post-cabinet press conference this afternoon.

Mr Key also confirmed some citizens intending to travel to Syria had their passports cancelled.

"They obviously don't put their hand up saying they're going to be freedom fighters when they leave, so they present a series of different reasons why they might be leaving the country," he said.

"So it's a fairly big step for us so I think since 2005 there actually been less that 10 people who've passports have been cancelled."

The Prime Minister says this type of information confirms the need for the New Zealand's foreign intelligence agency, the GCSB.

"From time to time we need to track the activities of New Zealanders, we need to be sure of their whereabouts," he says.

"We certainly need to be clear if they return to New Zealand whether they pose a threat to other New Zealanders, if they become radicalised.

Unconfirmed reports have the death toll in Syria at more than 130,000.