Australian authorities have detained seven young nationals as they were attempting to fly to the Middle East, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on 20 August over suspicions they wanted to join Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State (IS).

"We have stopped at the airport, seven young Australians who were planning to travel to the Middle East it seems to join terrorist groups over there. This indicates the continuing allure of this death cult. It shows the importance of the most vigorous action at home and abroad to disrupt, to degrade, to destroy this menace to the freedom and the security of the world," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalised Muslims, including home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to "high" and unleashed a series of high-profile raids in cities. In addition to attempts to safeguard against any domestic attacks, Australian officials have intensified efforts to prevent radicalised citizens from joining IS.

"We are concerned about the number of people presenting at airports, particularly younger people, who might be seeking to travel overseas for reasons that would horrify Australians and their parents and family and community no doubt as well. Obviously, particularly where investigations are ongoing we're not going to provide a running commentary in relation to that but we have been incidents and the eighty counter terrorism unit offers we have at our international airports, I think need to be commended for the work that they're doing with the Australian Federal Police and with the agencies otherwise," said Australian Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton.

Abbott has told parliament at least 70 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria, backed by about 100 Australia-based "facilitators".