Police search a property near Young. Picture: Channel Nine
Police search a property near Young. Picture: Channel Nine

Electrician charged over IS missile plot

AN Australian-born electrician charged over "terrorism offences" following a raid in Young today has been refused bail, accused of intending to provide ISIL with the "hi-tech capability" to develop long-range missiles for the Islamic terrorist group.

In what has been described as a major terrorism operation, AFP today searched an isolated building in Young, in the state's south west, arresting 42-year-old electrician Haisem Zahab.

The 42-year-old man is led away in handcuffs. Picture: AFP
The 42-year-old man is led away in handcuffs. Picture: AFP

After an 18-month investigation, Zahab was arrested at his property today and charged with two counts of preparations for incursions into foreign countries for purpose of engaging in hostile activities; and one count of person with knowledge of a computer or a computer system failing to comply with an order.

He appeared in Young Local Court this afternoon and was formally refused bail.

He is due to appear in Parramatta Local Court on March 8.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference today, confirming the arrest was related to an alleged plot to develop missiles for ISIL.

"Police will allege that the man arrested has sought to advise ISIL on how to develop hi-tech weapons capability this highlights that terrorism, support for terrorists groups and Islamism extremism is not limited to our major cities," Mr Turnbull said.

Police search a property near Young. Picture: Channel Nine
Police search a property near Young. Picture: Channel Nine

"The evidence uncovered to date does not involved immediate domestic attack planning but it is yet another reminder of the enduring threat we face from Islamist terrorism."

Police will allege Zahab used the internet to perform services for ISIL activities in the Syria and Iraq conflict, from Australia.

It included researching and designing a laser warning device to help warn against incoming munitions used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq and researching, designing and modelling systems to aid ISIL's efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capabilities.

The operation does not relate to any planned terrorist attack in Australia, Mr Turnbull said.

"This highlights that terrorism, support for terrorist groups, and Islamist extremism is not limited to our major cities," Mr Turnbull said.

"We've seen Australians arrested for preparations to carry out terrorist acts, or providing financial assistance to terror groups. We've seen Australians travel to the conflict zone to take up arms for ISIL, become suicide bombers, and cannon fodder.

"We've seen professionals, such as doctors, join the terrorist organisation.

"Here, the police will allege that this individual, in a regional centre, acted with intent to provide ISIL with the capability, with the technical capability, and hi-tech capability, to detect and develop missiles.

"It once again shows that we all need to be very vigilant, and this is yet another example of the excellent work the men and women of the Australian Federal Police and all our security agencies are doing in identifying and disrupting alleged assistance to ISIL."

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said Zahab lived in a home with his children and had been living in Young "for a while".

"We believe he's acted alone in relate to these activities and we don't hold any particular concerns … about Young," Mr Colvin said, adding it was not believed the man had travelled to the Middle East.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the arrest came after an 18 month operation.

Zahab is expected to charged with a number of offences, including two serious foreign incursion offences which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

AFP assistant commissioner of counter-terrorism Ian McCartney said: "It's extremely concerning, of course, and disturbing for police that we're continuing to see Australians seeking out and providing support to these violent extremist groups.

"The charges we will lay today against this man are serious.

PM Malcolm Turnbull and AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin. Picture: Kym Smith
PM Malcolm Turnbull and AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin. Picture: Kym Smith

"However ... it's important to note that we are not alleging that this man was involved in any domestic attack planning here in Australia.

"Unfortunately this arrest today highlights the global nature of terrorism and the importance of community vigilance.

"We rely very heavily on the community to report any information to authorities, to police, to our security agencies, so that we can continue to break these networks."

The assistant commissioner said it was believed the man had networks and contacts in ISIL, in the conflict zones and other parts of the world, that he had been relying on to pass the information.

"This is a very technical offence and this gentleman is quite technically minded so we will be doing a complete, thorough forensic examination of that property," Mr McCartney said.

"It could take hours, if not days, and we will leave no stone unturned in what we're looking for."

News Corp Australia


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