Aussie accused of helping ISIS develop missile tech

PM Turnbull, at a press conference yesterday, said the arrest highlights Islamist extremism is "not limited to our major cities".
PM Turnbull, at a press conference yesterday, said the arrest highlights Islamist extremism is "not limited to our major cities".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Electrician faces 2 charges; he also allegedly designed laser warning device for terror group

SYDNEY • An Australian was charged yesterday with helping the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group develop high-tech weapons, including a long-range guided missile.

The authorities alleged that Haisem Zahab, a 42-year-old electrician, "researched and designed a laser warning device to help warn against incoming laser-guided munitions used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq". He also allegedly assisted ISIS by researching, designing and modelling systems to develop long-range guided missile technology, reported Agence France-Presse.

After an 18-month investigation, the police arrested him during a raid on his home yesterday in the town of Young in New South Wales, 165km from capital Canberra.

Zahab was allegedly in contact with networks linked to the terror group.But he was working alone and there was no domestic-related threat, said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

"We will allege he has utilised the Internet to perform services for ISIL," Mr Colvin said, using another acronym for the militant group.

"We believe he has networks and contacts in ISIL - not necessarily just in the conflict zones, but in other parts of the world as well and he has been relying on them to pass this information," said Mr Colvin, adding that Zahab's research was "fairly sophisticated".

Zahab was born in Australia and has a business installing solar panels, officials said. He had no direct experience with laser or missile technology as far as the police were aware, reported The Australian newspaper.

The suspect appeared in court yesterday on two foreign incursion charges punishable by life imprisonment. He was refused bail and will reappear in court on March 8.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the arrest was "yet another reminder of the enduring threat we face from Islamist terrorism".

"This highlights that terrorism, support for terrorist groups and Islamist extremism are not limited to our major cities," he said. "It once again shows that we all need to be very vigilant."

Canberra has become increasingly worried about home-grown extremism and the terror threat level was raised in September 2014.

Australian officials say they have prevented 12 terror attacks on home soil since then, with 61 people charged. But four attacks have gone ahead, including the murder of a Sydney police employee in 2015 by a 15-year-old boy.

In the past two years, the Turnbull government has introduced eight packages of counter-terrorism legislation and provided the federal police and other security agencies with a record A$1.3 billion (S$1.4 billion) worth of extra investment, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie accused of helping ISIS develop missile tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe