Australia's top ISIS recruiter 'has been killed'

SYDNEY • Australia's most senior recruiter for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, who was reportedly linked to an alleged plot to attack Anzac Day commemorations, has been killed, local media said yesterday.

The news came as Saudi Arabia reported yesterday that Riyadh had detained 33 suspects, including nine Americans, on terrorism charges over the past week.

News of Neil Prakash's death was posted on secure communications app Telegram, Melbourne's Herald Sun reported, citing an ISIS member.

"It was posted on Telegram," the member, who was not named, told the newspaper. "I did not know him, but I heard."

The newspaper said there were no details about how, when and where Prakash, who left Australia in 2013, was killed.

A spokesman for Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis said the government "cannot confirm reports of the death of Neil Prakash at this time because of the serious security situation in Syria and Iraq".

Prakash - also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi - was linked to the alleged plot on Anzac Day, when Australia honours its war dead.

Sevdet Besim, 19, is facing four charges related to planning the alleged attack on April 25 last year.

A 15-year-old boy in Britain was in October sentenced to a minimum of five years in jail for inciting Besim to carry out a "major terrorist plot" at the event.

Canberra lifted its terror threat level to high in 2014, conducted counter-terrorism raids and introduced new national security laws amid fears of home-grown extremism.

The government has also cracked down on nationals attempting to travel to conflict zones including Syria and Iraq.

In Saudi Arabia, the English-language daily Saudi Gazette said four Americans were detained on Monday and another five in the following days, along with 14 Saudis, three Yemenis, two Syrians, an Indonesian, a Filipino, a United Arab Emirates citizen, a Palestinian and a citizen of Kazakhstan.

The American embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia in 2014 declared ISIS a terrorist organisation and has detained hundreds of its supporters. The group, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, has staged a series of attacks in the kingdom.

On Friday, an attack at a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in Saudi Arabia's al-Ahsa district in Eastern Province killed four people and injured 18, the latest in a string of attacks claimed by Sunni militants that have left over 50 dead in the past year.

The website of the Interior Ministry's militant rehabilitation centre listed four US citizens as having been detained last Monday and four more over the previous three months.

It did not yet list any more recent detentions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Australia's top ISIS recruiter 'has been killed''. Print Edition | Subscribe