An Australian electrician was arrested in New South Wales on Tuesday for allegedly working to help the Islamic State militant group co-opt the capability to detect enemy missiles in-flight, authorities said.
Haisem Zahab was arrested in the town of Young, located in NSW’s southwest, and booked on multiple terror-related charges.
Investigators said Zahab spent considerable time researching online to design a laser warning device capable of seeing incoming missiles used by coalition forces in Syrian and Iraqi combat theaters. He then purportedly passed on what federal police called “fairly sophisticated and well-planned” information to the Islamic State.
Police said they also intend to prove that Zahab wanted to help the militant group, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, develop their own offensive long-range missile system.
“We will be alleging that the material that he was intending to provide to ISIL, the research he was doing, was credible,” Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said at a news conference.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull added that officials don’t believe an attack on Australian soil was imminent, but nonetheless said the case is a reminder that citizens must remain vigilant to disrupt the Salafi jihadist group’s efforts.
By the time of his arrest, Zahab had already been under federal investigation for 18 months as part of the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Marksburg — a sting focused on the finances of Zahab and extended family members that were potentially earmarked to support an Islamic State arms racket. Authorities said the effort sent thousands of dollars to the Middle East.
Police had said members of Zahab’s family intended to join Islamic State fighters in Syria.
“These funds were acquired from the sale of their former family residence located in Sydney,” the AFP said in a recent report.
Police, though, said they believe Zahab acted alone in his attempt to provide militants with missile technologies.
An electrician by trade, Zahab, 42, faces multiple terror charges and made his first court appearance Tuesday. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life. He is due back in court next week.
By Doug G. Ware