Melbourne, Nov 28: Once believed to be dead, Australia’s most wanted Islamist terrorist, Neil Prakash, whose father is a Fiji-Indian, is reported to have been arrested while trying to cross over from war-torn Syria into Turkey.
Prakash was arrested by Turkish officials in Turkey, when he tried to cross the Syrian border into Turkey using false documents and a fake name.
Confirming Neil Prakash’s arrest, government spokeswoman said that Prakash’s arrest was the result of close collaboration between Australian and Turkish authorities.
“Prakash is subject to a formal extradition request from Australia,” the spokeswoman for the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism, said on Saturday.
“We are conscious that this individual has been arrested by Turkish authorities and their processes need to be respected and allowed to be completed.”
Neil Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, has been presented as a key player in inspiring violent terrorism in Australia.
It is being speculated now that Prakash, who attended Melbourne’s controversial Al-Furqan Islamic Centre after converting from a Buddhist, was only wounded in the May drone attack near Mosul.
Six months earlier, in May this year, the government had reported Prakash’s death on the basis of advice from the United States, that he had been killed in an airstrike.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism, Michael Keenan, defended the earlier error.
“The Government’s capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is limited. These places are war zones, with many ungoverned spaces.
“There have been people who have been reported dead and are later found to be alive,” the Minister said.
A number of Australian security experts have expressed relief over the arrest of the former apprentice mechanic from Melbourne, reasoning that the injuries suffered in the air attack must have restricted Prakash’s recruitment and subversive activities.
“I think the biggest scalp was earlier when we removed him from the battlefield, so to speak,” Charles Sturt University’s director of terror studies Levi West told ABC Friday.
“… the real victory is having removed his capacity to recruit and influence Western ears,” West added.
Challenges for Australia upon Prakash’s extradition
However, the potential extradition and trial of Prakash has presented new challenges for the government, including identification of the chargeable offences and his remand location; amidst fears that Prakash could set off an un-quell-able radicalisation process within the Australian prison system.
Dr Clarke Jones, an expert on prison radicalisation at the Australian National University, said he had no doubt that Prakash’s time with Islamic State would give him a high profile and a fair amount of influence over other inmates.
Dr Jones said authorities would have a tough time keeping someone like Prakash quiet.
“How will they incarcerate him? How will they stop him passing messages to others?
“It could be more of a risk bringing him back and putting him into our facility. Trying to manage someone like that is going to be extremely problematic.”
Other counter-terrorism experts say that Prakash could act as a model for young radicals in the prison system and inspire them to take up terrorism.
The once gang member and failed hip hop artist, Prakash, 23, is of Fijian-Indian and Cambodian background, being the son of an absentee Fiji-Indian father and Cambodian mother.
Prakash was reportedly involved in foiled terror plots at Anzac Day commemorations in 2015 and 2016.
He was actively involved both in recruitment and in encouraging domestic terrorist events in Australia; being the principle Australian reaching back from the Middle East into Australia – especially into the terrorist networks both in Melbourne and Sydney.
A Melbourne resident before leaving to join IS in 2013, Prakash is alleged to have spearheaded the campaign to encourage lone wolf attacks and more sophisticated attacks, including allegations that he was communicating with a group of Melbourne men plotting an Anzac Day terrorist attack last year.
He was also intercepted talking to a 16-year-old boy from Auburn, in Sydney, who was later arrested on Anzac Day this year, after he allegedly met an undercover officer purporting to sell guns.
Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis had described Neil Prakash as “Australia’s number one terrorist” and “most prominent and dangerous Australian” earlier this year.
“Prakash was a very important, high-value target. He was the most dangerous Australian involved with ISIL in the Middle East,” Brandis had told the ABC in May, this year.