Counter-Terrorism: All Is Not What It Appears To Be On The Internet


July 30, 2014: Sometimes Islamic terrorists on the Internet are not what they appear to be. Which brings us to July 11th when Filipino police in Cebu (southern Philippines) arrested an Australian man (29 year old Robert Edward Cerantonio) for overstaying his visa and defrauding the motel he was in (by not paying the bill). Also arrested was Cerantonio’s Filipino girlfriend, who he apparently met online. As strange as that may sound, it gets stranger still.

Cerantonio converted to Islam in 2002 while still a teenager and has since become popular (with Islamic terrorist fans) on the Internet for his pro-Islamic terrorism posts and videos where he urges Moslems to join Islamic terrorist groups and fight the enemies of Islam. Cerantonio arrived in the Philippines in February and met his Filipino girlfriend and both took up residence in a hotel room. The girlfriend was also raised a Catholic and converted to Islam in 2007 and was wanted by police for an earlier fraud case. But to his Internet followers Cerantonio was not in the Philippines to get laid but on his way to Syria to fight the enemies of Islam.

All the while Cerantonio was in the Philippines he was tweeting to his followers on the Internet that he was travelling to and had arrived in Syria to join the fight. This was what he had long urged others to do and was now pretending to be doing it himself while violating Islamic law by living with a woman who was not his wife.

Australian intelligence had been monitoring Cerantonio for years because of his Internet activity in support of Islamic terrorism but had never arrested him because Cerantonio had never broken any Australian laws. Australian counter-terror officials thought they could finally arrest Cerantonio when his online posts claimed he was fighting alongside Islamic terrorists in Syria. But when they tried to locate him via his Internet activity they found he was actually in the Philippines. The Australians alerted their counterparts in the Philippines about Cerantonio and it soon became clear what Cerantonio was actually up to had more to do with sex than with righteous violence.

The Filipinos told Australia that Cerantonio had apparently stayed in his motel room most of the time, while his girlfriend regularly went to work. There was some evidence that Cerantonio was preaching to Moslems in the Philippines. In reality few Filipinos had seen Cerantonio (a white guy with a beard and a pronounced Australian accent wearing long white robes). Finally on July 7th Australia cancelled Cerantonio’s passport and asked the Philippines to deport him. Filipino police also found that Cerantonio was behind in paying his rent and, now that he had lost his passport, there were grounds to deport him on the 23rd.

At least 150 Australian Moslem citizens are known to be fighting with Islamic terror groups and the Australian government devotes a lot of resources to monitoring pro-Islamic terrorist attitudes inside Australia to ensure there is not Islamic terrorist violence in Australia (there has been some, but not much). When Cerantonio returned to Australia he was questioned by police for several hours and then released because he had not done anything Australian police could arrest him for. It is believed that Cerantonio’s Internet activity was responsible for persuading some Australian Moslems to join terrorist groups but prosecutors have not got enough proof to do anything. Police did tell Cerantonio that they would be watching him closely from now on. Cerantonio was met at the airport by his father and was driven to the home of his Catholic parents where he would be living for a while.



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