An Australian believed to be a top "Islamic State" recruiter has been killed in a US airstrike in Mosul, Iraq. Melbourne-born Neil Prakash left for Syria in 2013, a year after converting from Buddhism.
Neil Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, was linked to an alleged Anzac Day terror plot last year
Australia's government announced Neil Prakash's death on Thursday. Attorney General George Brandis said that Washington had told Canberra that the airstrike hit the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) stronghold of Mosul on April 29. Australian authorities had provided intelligence as to the 24-year-old's identity and location prior to the strike.
"Neil Prakash was a prominent ISIL member and a senior terrorist recruiter and attack facilitator," Attorney General George Brandis said in a joint statement with Defence Minister Marise Payne, using an alternative acronym for IS.
"Prakash has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and calls for lone-wolf attacks against the United States. He is considered to be Australia's most prominent ISIL recruiter," Brandis said.
On high alert
Austraila's perceived terror threat alert level currently stands at "probable," the third of five possible levels starting at "not expected" and peaking at "certain." According to the government, at least six attacks have been foiled on Australian soil over the past 18 months.
Brandis said that between 50 and 59 Australians had so far been killed fighting for jihadis groups in Iraq or Syria. Authorities estimate that another 110 are in the Islamic State ranks.
Australia has formally declared IS a terrorist organization under its new Allegiance to Australia Act, meaning that dual citizens could have their Australian citizenship revoked if found to be a member of the militant group.
Australia's top IS target
The 24-year-old Australian citizen of Cambodian and Fijian heritage converted from Buddhism in 2012 and traveled to Syria a year later.
Brandis called him "the most dangerous Australian involved with ISIL in the Middle East."
In 2014, the former rapper from Melbourne, who also featured in IS recruitment videos, joined two other Australian Islamic State fighters on a UN sanctions list. The others were Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf; the latter allegedly appeared in images last year holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
Prakash, who changed his name to Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, was linked to an alleged terror plot on Anzac Day last year, when Australia honors its war dead.
Separate strike in Syria
US authorities also told the government that an Australian woman, Shadi Jabar Khalil Mohammad, was killed in an airstrike near the Syrian city of Al-Bab on April 22, along with her Sudanese husband.
She was the sister of Farhad Jabar, a 15-year-old who shot dead police employee Curtis Cheng in Sydney last October. The teenager was killed in gunfire shortly afterwards.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said more Australians were in their sights.
"Australians who think they can go to Syria and Iraq and fight with Daesh have to recognize that they will be targeted," he told Sky News. "They are waging war against Australia and they are enemies of Australia once they choose to wage that war in those theatres."
Turnbull also said on Thursday that Australia's alliance with the US would remain strong regardless of who wins the US presidential election. Australians will vote on July 2, months before the US electorate decides.
jbh/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)