Australia’s most notorious terrorist – who was believed to have been killed in a United States air strike in Iraq – has reportedly been arrested in the Middle East.
Melbourne-born Neil Prakash, who became Australia’s main recruiter of Islamic State of the (Isil) fighters, has been in custody in an unidentified country for several weeks, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
The 25-year-old, who has gone by the name Abu Khaled al-Cambodi since joining Isil in 2013, was thought to have been killed in an American airstrike in Iraq in July. According to a senior American official, however, Prakash was wounded in the strike, but survived. Citing another senior American official, the Times reported that an unspecified Middle Eastern government has arrested him “in the last few weeks”.
“We should be gladdened by this news because Prakash was the most dangerous Australian we knew of [fighting for Isil],” George Brandis, Australia’s attorney-general, told Sky News at the time.
“He was the principal Australian reaching back from the Middle East … in particular to the terrorist networks in both Melbourne and Sydney,” said Mr Brandis.
In a statement, the minister assisting the prime minister for counter-terrorism, Michael Keenan, said the Government had reported Prakash’s death “on the basis of advice from the US Government”.
“The Government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is limited,” he said.
“These places are war zones, with many ungoverned spaces.
“And there are people who have been reported dead and are later found to be alive.”
Prakash, who was of Fijian and Cambodian descent, was believed to have had links to numerous plots in Australia, including a knife attack by an 18-year-old against two policemen in Melbourne and foiled plans to attack police both last year and this year on Anzac Day, Australia’s memorial day for fallen soldiers.
Australian IS recruiter Neil Prakash ‘still alive’
Neil Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, appeared in IS propaganda videos. AL HAYAT MEDIA CENTER
An Australian militant thought dead is still alive and under arrest in the Middle East, according to reports.
The Australian government in May said Neil Prakash, a senior recruiter for the so-called Islamic State group, had been killed in a US air strike.
He died in the Iraqi city of Mosul, Attorney-General George Brandis said at the time.
But the New York Times, citing senior US sources, now reports that Prakash is still alive.
Prakash handed himself to Turkish authorities several weeks ago, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism, Michael Keenan, said the government could not comment on intelligence matters.
“The government reported Prakash’s death in May on the basis of advice from the US government that he had been killed in an air strike,” he said in a statement on Friday.
“But as we have said previously, the government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is limited. These places are war zones, with many ungoverned spaces.”
‘Recruiter and attack facilitator’
Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, has been linked to attack plots in Australia and appeared in propaganda videos and magazines.
Using the acronym of the previous name of IS, Mr Brandis said in May that Prakash was a “prominent Isil member and a senior terrorist recruiter and attack facilitator”.
“Prakash has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and calls for lone-wolf attacks against the United States,” he said.
“He has actively recruited Australian men, women and children, and encouraged acts of terrorism.”
The Melbourne man, of Cambodian and Fijian heritage, converted to Islam from Buddhism in 2012. He left Australia for Syria in 2013.
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