By Jill Fraser
Australia’s most wanted Daesh recruiter, Neil Prakash, has reportedly been killed in Syria.
Prakash’s demise has been communicated between senior figures within Daesh’s ranks, with News Corporation reporting that the terror group has referred to Prakash as “shahada’’ — the description used when a fighter is killed.
News Corp quotes a Daesh militant maintaining that Prakash’s death was “posted via a secret messaging app known as Telegram” – an encrypted messaging service now used by the terror group instead of social media – as well as on a separate messenger channel.
The Australian government has been unable to confirm this, with a spokesperson for Attorney General George Brandis telling Anadolu Agency that it “cannot confirm reports of the death of Neil Prakash at this time because of the serious security situation in Syria and Iraq."
Counterterrorism expert Greg Barton, director at the Global Terrorism Research Centre, says that “given the information sources quoted it seems very likely that he has been killed”.
Melbourne-born Prakash, who calls himself Abu Khalid al-Cambodi (acknowledging his Cambodian heritage), was one of a number of online recruiters among Australia’s foreign fighters.
He had been wanted for arrest since last August under a warrant issued by the Australian federal police.
He was linked to an alleged plot to behead a Victorian police officer last year on ANZAC Day, which commemorates Australian and New Zealand troops who fought in the 1915 Battle of Canakkale -- known as Gallipoli in Australia.
The 23-year-old former Buddhist had only been a Muslim for one year and four months before traveling to Syria.
He confessed to never having stepped inside a mosque until he had been in the war-torn country for four weeks.
He arrived in Syria with no idea that the group he had always known as the so-called Islamic State was referred to as “Dawlah” in Arabic.
In a 12-minute propaganda video released online only days after five Melbourne teenagers were arrested – two of them charged with terrorism-related offences over an alleged plot to attack police at ANZAC Day services – Prakash said he decided to leave Australia after reading a passage in the Qur’an about "the three that missed the battle".
Barton told Anadolu Agency Sunday that Prakash wasn’t someone with a profile until he turned up in Syria.
“In retrospect the pattern seems quite clear,” Barton said.
Referring to the death of 18-year-old Numan Haider, who was shot dead outside a Melbourne police station in Sept. 2014 after attacking two police officers with a knife, Barton added that even with the attack, “the network wasn’t apparent”.
“But by the time of the Anzac Day plot last year the tight circle of friends became clear,” he underlined.
“Prakash went to Syria, stayed in contact with them and egged them on,” Barton said.
“Like Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, Prakash was exploited because of his social contacts and friendships,” he added, referring to two notorious Australian Daesh members reportedly killed in Iraq in mid-2015.
Barton believes that Prakash’s death signals the end of the high profile Australians who have been dominating social media – on behalf of Daesh – over the last 12 months.
“They’ve all been reported killed,” he said.
Barton told Anadolu Agency that the flow of radicalized Australians foreign fighters has slowed as a lot of resources have been ploughed into stopping them prior to them arriving at airports.
“It’s been expensive but successful,” Barton said. “There are still some slipping through but the flow from Australia has been greatly reduced.
“Whereas in South East Asia I think the worst is yet to come.”