Australian police arrest suspected IS 'missile researcher'

Australian police arrest suspected IS 'missile researcher'
Australian counter-terrorism units have detained an electrician accused of helping the Islamic State group develop possible long-range guided missiles and laser blocking capabilities against coalition bombs.
2 min read
28 February, 2017
Canberra has become increasingly worried about homegrown extremism [Getty]

An Australian was charged on Tuesday with helping the Islamic State group develop high-tech weapons, including long-range guided missile capabilities.

Haisem Zahab, a 42-year-old electrician, was working alone and there was no domestic-related terror threat, said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

"We will allege he has utilised the internet to perform services for ISIL," Colvin said, using an acronym for the jihadist group.

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

"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."

Zahab, from the town of Young 165 kilometres from the Australian capital Canberra, appeared in court on two foreign incursion charges punishable by life imprisonment. 

He was refused bail and will reappear on 8 March.

Zahab, who was born in  Australia, was allegedly in contact with networks linked to the terrorist group.

"We believe he has networks and contacts in ISIL - not necessarily just in the conflict zones, but in other parts of the world as well and he has been relying on them to pass this information," said Colvin, adding that his research was "fairly sophisticated".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the arrest after an 18-month operation was "yet another reminder of the enduring threat we face from Islamist terrorism".

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

"It once again shows that we all need to be very vigilant."

Canberra has become increasingly worried about homegrown extremism and the terror threat level was raised in September 2014.

Australian officials say they have prevented 12 terror attacks on home soil since then with 61 people charged.

But four attacks have gone ahead, including the murder of a Sydney police employee in 2015 by a 15-year-old boy.