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Accused foreign fighters behind bars

AAP logoAAP 2/11/2016 Stefanie Menezes, Daniel McCulloch and Anna Hitchings

A Sydney man and a teenage boy are behind bars after being accused of trying to fight for terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Police swooped on the pair during a string of counter-terrorism raids in the city's west on Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation into foreign fighters.

It's alleged Mehmet Biber, 24, who was arrested during a vehicle stop in Birrong, travelled to Syria to join the al-Qaeda affiliated group, Jabhat al-Nusra, in July 2013.

Biber engaged "in hostile activities" including possibly learning how to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before returning to Australia in February 2014, police say.

A 17-year-old boy, associated with Biber, meanwhile stands accused of trying to travel to Syria in January 2015 to join Islamic State.

It's alleged the teenager was also actively encouraging another friend to join him overseas.

He was formally refused bail at Parramatta Children's Court on Thursday afternoon after being charged with two foreign incursion offences which carry a maximum life imprisonment.

Police allege Biber was recruited to fight in Syria by Hamdi Alqudsi, who was recently sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court for arranging for seven men to make their way to foreign battlefields.

Biber was living in western Sydney with his wife and young daughter after he returned to Australia two years ago.

In January this year, he posted a message on social media warning there would be more attacks like the shooting murder of police accountant Curtis Cheng in 2015.

Biber was formally refused bail at Parramatta Local Court after being charged with one count of incursions into foreign states with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.

Both males will stay behind bars before they're due to appear at separate courts on December 15.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan defended the length of time it had taken police to apprehend the pair.

"Evidence collection from Syria is extremely difficult based on the fact that there is no competent law enforcement officers working in the region," he said.

It's estimated around 110 Australians have been fighting in the Middle East, while close to 60 have been killed.

Police searches were conducted at Bass Hill, Merrylands, Horningsea Park and Miller on Thursday with swarms of officers shuffling between neighbouring properties carting crates of equipment and evidence.

There is no imminent threat to the community, police said.

NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said she was concerned another Australian teenager appeared to be involved in terrorism activities, saying the issue needed to be dealt with by the whole community.

"We can't do this alone, we have to work with everybody so that we can really eliminate what we are seeing happening with some of our young people who might be susceptible or vulnerable to radicalisation and violent extremism," she said.

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