Somalia's Al Qaida-inspired Shebab on Thursday denied any connection with suspects charged in Australia over an alleged plot to carry out a suicide assault on a Sydney army barracks.
Three out of five men charged in Melbourne are of Somali origin and one of them, Yacqub Khayre, is accused of having travelled to Somalia to fight and train with the Shebab.
But a spokesman for the hardline group, currently engaged in a deadly military offensive against the internationally-backed government, denied the men had any links to his organisation.
"We have heard that Australia has arrested Somali men and suspect them of connections with our group, but I can tell you that the Shebab doesn't have nobody in Australia and that the arrested men are not in any way connected to us," Sheik Ali Mohamoud Rage told reporters.
In recent months, the Shebab have increasingly resorted to recruiting foreign jihadi fighters and members of the Somali diaspora but are not known to have actively taken part in terrorist attacks on foreign soil.
Many of its members nevertheless proclaim their allegiance to Al Qaeda, whose leaders have repeatedly urged fighters there to take the jihad (holy war) beyond the borders of Somalia, a country with a large diaspora.