Man arrested for allegedly developing missiles for ISIS has links to wanted gun traffickers: reports

The property in Young, near Canberra, where police carried out the raid.

The property in Young, near Canberra, where police carried out the raid. Photo: Twitter/SMH.

A 42-year-old regional electrician facing life imprisonment for allegedly working to aid Islamic State’s high-tech weapons capability is believed to have family links to a group of fugitives wanted for funding arms for the terrorist group.

Australian-born Haisem Zahab was arrested after an early-morning raid on Tuesday at his rural property outside Young in central New South Wales.

Police allege the solar technician attempted to research and design a laser warning device and missiles for IS between 2014 and 2017.

Mr Zahab’s surveillance and arrest was reportedly part of the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Marksburg, which focused on the extended Zahab family.

The operation has also seen the seizure of $530,000 from the sale of a Condell Park home owned by Mr Zahab’s cousin in Sydney last year that was split into several accounts belonging to four family members.

The cousin, Hicham Zahab, did not fight the AFP’s proceeds of crime proceedings as he had already fled to Syria with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, Fairfax Media reports.

Hicham Zahab is reportedly wanted by the Kuwaiti government for his suspected involvement in the IS arms smuggling cell.

The AFP’s latest annual report said Operation Marksburg was an investigation “into a family based in New South Wales that was suspected of travelling to Syria to become members of, and provide support to, Islamic State”.

Haisem Zahab did not apply for bail when he appeared before Young Local Court on Tuesday afternoon charged with two counts of aiding IS in contravention of section 119.1 of the criminal code.

Haisem Zahab

Haisem Zahab escorted from his Young property. Photo: Channel Seven

Presiding magistrate Peter Dare said the charges – foreign-incursion offences under the Commonwealth Criminal Code – carry life sentences.

Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin earlier confirmed to a media conference that Mr Zahab’s arrest was the culmination of an 18-month investigation.

“With these offences, we will allege that he has utilised the internet to perform services for ISIL, activities in the Syria and Iraq conflict from Australia in the following ways,” Mr Colvin said.

“Firstly, by researching and designing a laser warning device to help warn against incoming guided munitions used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq.

“And secondly, we will also allege that he has been researching, designing and modelling systems to assist ISIL’s efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capabilities.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the arrest was not linked to any immediate terror threat.

Terror raids in Young

Mr Turnbull and Mr Colvin address the media in Canberra on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

“Police will allege that this individual, in a regional centre, acted with intent to provide ISIL with the … technical capability, and high-tech capability, to detect and develop missiles,” Mr Turnbull said.

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

“The evidence uncovered to date does not involve immediate domestic attack planning.”

Mr Colvin said Mr Zahab’s research was “fairly sophisticated” and was arrested in front of his family, including children, at a house in the rural town which is known as the cherry capital of Australia.

‘Scary’ raid

A man purporting to be Mr Zahab’s brother told Channel Seven the raid on the Young property scared him as an Australian.

“I think it’s very excessive. It’s very scary for us as Australian citizens born and raised, and living in Australia,” he said.

“At 3 o’clock in the morning they’re [police] blowing doors off their hinges and breaking glass, and putting firearms to women and children’s heads. It’s pretty traumatic.”

Zahab's brother

A man purporting to be Haisem Zahab’s brother criticised the raid. Photo: Channel Seven

While Mr Zahab has been identified as a solar technician, a website listing his Cherry Vale Place property as its contact address sells knifes and survival equipment online as Oz Survival Gear.

The site, which includes the motto “a knifeless man is a lifeless man” on its home page, was down for “scheduled maintenance” by Tuesday night.

Police spent most of Tuesday searching Mr Zahab’s property, many using metal detectors. The search is expected to continue for several days.

Mr Zahab will appear before the Parramatta Local Court on March 8 via audio-video link.

– with AAP/ABC

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