Small group wanted to follow Napier man killed in Iraq but Muslim leaders say most were talked out of it.

Up to 25 New Zealanders want to travel to the Middle East to fight against Isis, local Iraqi and Kurdish leaders say, but most of them have been talked out of it.

Kadhem Chilab Abbas, an Iraqi refugee from Napier, was killed in northern Iraq on Friday after a car he was travelling in was struck by a rocket believed to have been fired by Isis forces.

Iraqi and Muslim leaders in New Zealand said yesterday that Mr Abbas' death took them by surprise. But they also noted that there was a small but passionate group who were interested in making the same commitment to return to Iraq and defend their country against extremists.

A spokesman for New Zealand's 1200-strong Kurdish community, Abbas Ahmed, said he was aware of between 20 and 25 people who wanted to fight with the Peshmerga forces against Isis. The autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq is one of the frontlines of the battle with the Islamic State.


Mr Ahmed said: "A lot of us have life commitments in New Zealand, they have families, children. But there is a feeling, a moral duty that they should unite against this kind of brutal fighting from Isis."

They were told by the Kurdish Government they were not needed, and have instead supported their compatriots by sending donations and holding anti-Isis marches.

Mr Ahmed said local Kurds were also uncertain about whether they would be criminalised if they travelled to Iraq or Syria, no matter who they fought for.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said through a spokesman yesterday that New Zealand law did not prevent Kiwis from travelling to Iraq and Syria. "We would note, however, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises New Zealanders against all travel to these countries," he said.

Mr Finlayson said it was not the Attorney-General's role to provide legal advice to the public and he would not "issue blanket guidance on these matters".

The Government believes there are a handful of New Zealanders fighting with Isis, and Prime Minister John Key revealed on Monday that several more Kiwis had been "talked down" by spy agencies from travelling to the region.

When asked to comment on whether the SIS had concerns about New Zealanders fighting against Isis, a spokesman said: "Foreign fighters taking part in or returning from any sort of conflict zone are a concern for many countries, including New Zealand.

"We are aware of a small number who have made it to the likes of Syria and Iraq, but we won't necessarily know of all of them."