Thursday, 23 April 2015

Neil Prakash AKA Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, Australian Buddhist Joins ISIS

From Buddhist to jihadist: Melbourne man Neil Prakash's journey to Islamic State

April 23 2015



He arrived in Syria with a desire to be the "best Muslim" he could be.
But by his own admission, Neil Prakash spent four weeks in the country without stepping foot inside a mosque.

The 23-year-old former Buddhist from Melbourne, now also known by the jihadist name Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, had only been a Muslim for one year and four months before travelling to the war-torn country. Since then, Mr Prakash has ascended to the role of a senior Islamic State recruiter in Syria, and called for attacks on home soil.


In a 12-minute IS propaganda video, which emerged online this week, Mr Prakash recounts his conversion to Islam and his journey to Syria. He says he was was not satisfied in practising his newfound religion in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, which have been identified as somewhat of a breeding ground for extremist ideas.

"One day I was thinking to myself, there's more to Islam than just praying," he says in the clip. He says he decided to leave Australia after reading a passage in the Koran about "the three that missed the battle".


So, he slipped out of Melbourne, bound for Syria. The journey, taken by hundreds of other Australians who have been swayed by extremist views, is referred to by IS supporters as "making hijrah" [migration].

However, Mr Prakash arrived in Syria with no idea what the group's Arabic name was.
"A brother approached me and he said to me, 'Would you like to come to Dawlah?,'" Mr Prakash says in the video. "At the time I was thinking 'Dawlah? What's Dawlah?' The only reason I said this is I only knew the English name, Islamic State.

"He said to me, 'There's a lot of brothers from Australia that want to meet you.'"
In his latest call to arms he says: "Now is the time to rise, now is the time to wake up … You must start attacking before they attack you."

The video was released only days after five Melbourne teenagers were arrested and two charged with terrorism-related offences over an alleged plot to attack police at Anzac Day services in the city's south-eastern suburbs.

Mr Prakash is of Fijian and Cambodian descent, a fact reflected in his nom de guerre.
In the clip, he explains that he was born into a Buddhist family. But he says he began questioning his faith after travelling to Cambodia with his family, where he saw shirk (people worshipping statues at Buddhist temples).

"I literally saw what shirk was," he recalls. "I saw people praying, crying towards statues, giving money to statues ...

"I ask my mother ... on Cambodian New Year, 'Why do I have to ask the statue if I can eat food?' It never made any sense to me."

On his return to Melbourne he reached out to a Muslim friend and says he received Da'wah (an invitation to join Islam) and was later asked to take the Shahada (a spoken testimony of belief) on the last Friday of Ramadan.

"It was one of the best feelings I've had in my life, the unity that I felt with the brothers at the masjid [mosque] and how everyone looked like they were following the Sunnah [the way of Muhammad] with the beard ... and everything," he says.
He does not name the mosque he attended in Melbourne, but it is understood he visited the Al-Furqan Islamic Information Centre in Springvale South, which has been linked to the five teenagers arrested on Saturday.

On Thursday, the Al-Furqan centre announced it was closing its doors, "given the constant harassment, pressure and false accusations levelled against the centre". The centre has been linked to Islamic extremism since 2012.

Mr Prakash says he rid himself of his possessions before leaving for Syria.
"I was shocked at myself. I was thinking, 'What am I doing? I have a good life here. I have a job, I have an income, I have a car, I have a house. What sacrifice have I done for the sake of Allah?' I thought about the people overseas in the Muslim lands that are suffering.

"And this is when my journey really started beginning. I started attending this masjid ... learning about the basics of Islam."
It wasn't easy for him to slip out of the country, he says.

"Every time I went to make hijrah [migration], something would come in the way.
"The only point I was able to make hijrah, I was able to throw every single thing away, was when I seriously submitted to Allah ...
"I was finally on my way to the land of jihad."

Australia's Most Wanted Terrorist Neil Prakash Arrested

Updated: November 25, 2016 20:50 IST

New York/Melbourne:  Neil Prakash, Australia's most senior ISIS recruiter has been arrested in the Middle East, a media report said today, months after the US and Australia said he was killed in an American air strike in Iraq this year.

The New York Times reported that Neil had been arrested in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.

The 25-year-old, who has gone by the name Abu Khaled al- Cambodi since joining ISIS in 2013, was thought to have been killed in an American air strike in Iraq in July.

Neil, who was of Fijian and Cambodian descent, has been a prominent member of ISIS in Iraq, and has sought to recruit Australians to carry out attacks.

Quoting a senior American official, the Times said that US forces targeted Neil earlier this year. Though he was wounded, he survived.

"In the last few weeks, however, a Middle Eastern government arrested Mr. Prakash," another senior American military official was quoted as saying.

Neil handed himself to Turkish authorities several weeks ago, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Australia's justice minister, Michael Keenan, declined to comment on the new report on Neil, but conceded that the government's ability to confirm reports of deaths in Syria or Iraq was limited.

"As a matter of longstanding practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters of intelligence or law enforcement operations," Keenan said.

"The government reported Prakash's death in May on the basis of advice from the US government that he had been killed in an airstrike."

He said, "There have been people who have been reported dead and are later found to be alive."

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