Australian Islamic State Operative Neil Prakash

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 8, 2016

Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash has become Australia’s most visible recruiter for the Islamic State, following in the footsteps of Mohammad Ali Baryalei.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei

Mohammad Ali Baryalei

Mohammad Ali Baryalei

It was Baryalei who ordered Omarjan Azari, 22, also of Sydney, to kidnap a random unbeliever and murder him on camera in September 2014, right after the speech by Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) calling on Muslims everywhere to attack non-believers.[1] Other of Baryalei’s recruits include Mohamed Elomar.

Baryalei descended from an aristocratic and Sufi family in Kabul who were related to the last Afghan King, Zahir Shah. Fleeing Afghanistan in 1981, Baryalei’s family settled in Australia and from there it is purest cliché. An abusive father, a depressive teenager, a wayward young man, drinking and womanizing with, apparently, a particular fondness for cocaine, a long record of criminality (probably including importing narcotics), and eternally unemployed. Then Baryalei got religion: he went to mosque, absorbed the YouTube videos of Ahmed Deedat, Khaled Yassin, Dr. Bilal Philips, and of course Anwar al-Awlaki. Baryalei got married in 2012, having already made the lady wear the veil. In April 2013, Baryalei left Australia for Syria.[2]

Baryalei was killed on 24 or 25 October 2014, and the announcement made on 28 October by a fan in his native Sydney.[3]

Prakash

Prakash picked up where Baryalei left off. Prakash, who has Cambodian and Fijian background—hence his kunya, Abu Khalid al-Cambodi—converted from Buddhism to Islam in 2012 and was in Syria by November 2013.[4] Prakash appeared in a video not long after the caliphate was declared. Since then, Prakash’s role as a remote-control guide for IS attacks has been detected in:

  • Helping radicalize Numan Haider, who was shot dead in Melbourne as he tried to stab a policeman to death on 23 September 2014;
  • The ANZAC Day [25 April] 2015 plot;
  • The Mother’s Day pipe bomb plot [10 May 2015] in Melbourne, which was stopped the day before it was planned;
  • The ANZAC Day [25 April] plot in Sydney in 2016.

Prakash was a key node joining the caliphate to its supporters in Australia; he attended the now-closed al-Furqan Islamic Centre in Melbourne and also al-Risalah group in Sydney.

There are, as of May 2016, 110 Australians fighting for IS.[5]

An arrest warrant was issued by Australia for Prakash in August 2015.[6]

Prakash was reportedly killed by a Coalition airstrike with ten others in Mosul on 29 April 2016 at age 24.

Exactly a week before Prakash was killed, on 22 April, the Coalition struck down a Sudanese man, Abu Sa’ad al-Sudani (a.k.a. Abu Isa al-Amriki), and his wife, Shadi Jabar Khalil Mohammad, who fled Australian the day before her brother, Farhad Jabar, 15, murdered police worker Curtis Cheng in Sydney on 2 October 2015. Abu Sa’ad and Ms. Mohammad were believed to be recruiters of Australians for IS.[7]

UPDATE

On 25 November 2016, The New York Times reported that Prakash was alive, having been arrested in recent weeks by an unnamed Middle Eastern government,[8] quickly discovered to be Turkey’s. It is likely that the Australian government knew Prakash was alive as early as June 2016 but kept this secret to more effectively track Prakash. It seems that Prakash’s avid use of social media to communicate with and incite foreign jihadists to the caliphate’s cause—both joining “the state” and carrying out attacks in their homelands—might have been his undoing, with his location pinned down by his online habits. While the natural assumption is that Prakash faked his death in order to travel home to conduct terrorism, it does appear he was injured and it is believed by some counter-intelligence officials that the chaos and destruction led Prakash to change his mind.[9]

Raphael Hostey

Raphael Hostey

There was another theory current in May, when rumours circulated that all might not be as it seems. The claim was that Prakash and Raphael Hostey (Abu Qaqa al-Britani), a 24-year-old British graphic-designer-turned-IS-recruiter who was also allegedly killed in May,[10] had faked their deaths to escape from IS.[11] The accusation was that Prakash and Hostey, good friends with one-another, were part of the Hazmi trend, named after the Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi cleric Ahmad al-Hazmi, who maintains that ignorance is no excuse for un-Islamic behaviour and people who excuse others for un-Islamic behaviour on the basis of their ignorance are themselves infidels, and thus should be killed.[12] It was absolutely inevitable that IS’s own populist logic, one of its defining features—its assault on official hierarchies and taking instruction from established authorities—would open this trapdoor as it set itself up as an authority.

***

Notes

[1] Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, “Mohammad Ali Baryalei: Australia’s most senior Islamic State member ‘loved cocaine’, found Islam after history of abuse, mental illness,” ABC, 25 September 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-22/senior-australian-is-militant-had-history-of-abuse/5761588

[2] Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, “Mohammad Ali Baryalei: Australia’s most senior Islamic State member ‘loved cocaine’, found Islam after history of abuse, mental illness,” ABC, 25 September 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-22/senior-australian-is-militant-had-history-of-abuse/5761588

[3] “Mohammad Ali Baryalei, Australia’s alleged senior Isis recruiter, ‘killed’,” The Guardian, 29 October 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/29/mohammad-ali-baryalei-australia-alleged-senior-isis-recruiter-killed

[4] “Australian IS recruiter Neil Prakash ‘killed in Iraq’,” BBC, 5 May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-36200410

[5] David Wroe, “Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash killed by US strike in Iraq,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/national/islamic-state-recruiter-neil-prakash-killed-by-us-strike-in-iraq-20160504-gomjgh.html

[6] http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/warrant-issued-for-islamic-state-recruiter-neil-prakash/news-story/e6baca708051256d627f6d57ba786418

[7] “Australian IS recruiter Neil Prakash ‘killed in Iraq’,” BBC, 5 May 2016, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-36200410

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/middleeast/isis-recruiters-social-media.html

[9] http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-terrorist-neil-prakash-may-have-been-tracked-by-social-media-posts-20161128-gsyz5w.html

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/02/british-jihadi-reported-to-have-been-killed-in-syria/

[11] https://twitter.com/AmarAmarasingam/status/802179474112598016

[12] http://www.jihadica.com/the-extremist-wing-of-the-islamic-state/

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