Malcolm Turnbull

Death of top IS recruiter 'doesn't eliminate threat', expert warns


A leading Australian counter-terrorism expert believes the death of Islamic State operative Neil Prakash is a big achievement, but says it doesn't eliminate the threat of an attack.

The death of Neil Prakash, the Islamic State operative behind a string of failed Australian terror plots, has been hailed as a major breakthrough in the fight against domestic terrorism.

Prakash was killed in a targeted US air strike in northern Iraq nearly a week ago.

Counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton told SBS that the IS operative's death was a "big achievement".

"There was at least three attacks that were thwarted that he was involved in, including a planned Anzac Day attack a year ago in Melbourne," Mr Barton said.

"With Prakash out of the picture, that’s a big achievement. But, it doesn't eliminate the threat of others doing exactly the same thing."

Mr Barton said Prakash was not a mastermind, rather a "charismatic front man" for the militant group.

"His narrative was an authentic narrative of zero-to-hero and redemption," he said.

"He turned his back on Australia.. migrating to Syria.

"Of course it was all a dangerous delusion, but it was a delusion that’s been very effective in communicating to other young people.

"It's easy to get these kids, in the space of a few weeks (to) convince them to do something quite reckless."

Mr Barton said IS recruiters look to recruit children who "don't have well-formed" executive judgment and it's usually done by looking for youngsters engaging through online chat forums. 

PM hails death as 'positive'

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged Prakash had been a target for some time "as he should have been", but would not elaborate on what role Australia played in the strike.

"Neil Prakash's death is a very, very positive development in the war against Daesh and the war against terror," he told Sky News on Thursday.

Attorney-General George Brandis earlier revealed Australian authorities provided the US with information about Prakash - who he said was a "very important, high-value target" - and his location within the IS stronghold of Mosul.

He described Prakash as the most dangerous Australian engaged with IS, being actively involved in recruitment and encouraging domestic terrorist events in Australia.

"He was the principal Australian reaching back from the Middle East ... in particular to the terrorist networks in both Melbourne and Sydney," Senator Brandis said.

"He was the person of greatest concern to us."

counter-terrorism expert, Professor Greg Barton, told SBS

US officials have also advised the government Australian woman Shadi Jabar, the sister of Parramatta shooter Farhad Jabar, was killed in a separate air strike.

Shadi Jabar and her husband Abu Saad al-Sudani, who was also killed in the air strike, were actively involved in the recruitment of Australians to IS, Senator Brandis said.

The latest advice from the nation's domestic spy agency ASIO is that about 110 Australians are in the Middle East as foreign fighters with IS or engaged in its network.

Counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton said Prakash was more a mouthpiece for IS rather than one of its masterminds.

But his death was very significant nevertheless because Prakash was linked to a failed Anzac Day terror plot in Melbourne and the shooting death of NSW police worker Curtis Cheng in western Sydney last year.

"The fact that he's out of the picture is very welcome, but unfortunately there's many others there as well," Professor Barton said.

"A major breakthrough, but a long way to go."

The death of Prakash had degraded IS's ability to recruit vulnerable people to conduct terrorist acts, Senator Brandis said.

Prakash had appeared in IS propaganda videos and magazines and recruited Australians, including children, and encouraged acts of terrorism.

"These incidents remind us that Australians who engage in terrorist activity and move into overseas conflict zones are placing themselves and others at significant risk."

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